Thursday, June 14, 2007

"Apolitical" Intellectuals

Apolitical Intellectuals
Otto Rene Castillo
One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.
They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.
No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with "the idea
of the nothing"
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.
They won't be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward's death.
They'll be asked nothing
about their absurd
born in the shadow
of the total life.
On that day
the simple people will come.
Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they'll ask:
"What did you do when the poor suffered,
when tenderness
and life
burned out of them?"
Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.
A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.
Your own misery
will pick at your soul.
And you will be mute
in your shame.

Otto Rene Castillo, born 1936, was a Guatemalan revolutionary, aguerrilla fighter, and a poet. Following the 1954 CIA-sponsored coupthat overthrew the democratic Arbenz government, Castillo went intoexile in El Salvador, where he met Roque Dalton and other writers who helped him publish his early works.

When the dictator Armas died in 1957, he returned to Guatemala and in 1959 went to the German Democratic Republic to study, where he received a Masters degree. Castillo returned to Guatemala in 1964 and became active in the Workers Party, founded theExperimental Theater of the Capital City Municipality, and wrote and published numerous poems. That same year, he was arrested but managed to escape, going into exile once again, this time in Europe. Later that year he went back to Guatemala secretly and joined one of the armed guerilla movements operating in the Zacapa mountains. In 1967, Castillo and other revolutionary fighters were captured; he, along with his comrades and some local campesinos, were brutally tortured and then burned alive.