Cristian Cayupán: “We are fire and earth still”

Selection and introduction by Mabel García Barrera

© Translation by Lorrie Jayne and Juan G. Sánchez Martínez



Bilingual Cristian Cayupán is recognized as the poet with the most potential in the area of Mapuche and Indo-american Literature Studies. He lives in Southern Chile, in the city of Temuco, in the José Cayupán community of the Mequewe area. Cayupán has published several collections which include Poemas Prohibidos (prohibited poems) (2007), Reprimida Ausencia (repressed absence) (2009), Usuarios del silencio (users of the silence) (2012), Tratado de Piedras (treaty of rocks) (2014),Terruño (homeland) (2014), El hombre y su piedra (the man and his rock) (2016), Apología del barro. Fotra ñi llellipun (clay’s apology) (2017). In collaboration with Ana Ñanculef, Cayupán has also co-authored a book of ethnographic research entitled  KuifikeZugu. Discursos, relatos y oraciones rituales en mapuzugun (discourses, stories and ritual prayers in Mapuzugun)(2016).


He is the manager and editor of the Magazine Comarcas. Literatura sin Fronteras. (borderlines, literature without borders) which has been in continuous publication since 2011. Above, Cayupán brings together the unedited poem Piedra Humana, an ontological project that continues the path of the poet’s previous works and is immersed in an “aesthetic of the sacred”  that brings traditional Mapuche knowledge and types of speech into the present. He includes epew (mythical tales) and other ancestral canonical forms in which beings are one with the cosmos dissolving and fusing in the energies which they inhabit. This perspective is part of the art and literature of present day Mapuche, whether as a challenge to preserve and represent this mode of inhabiting the cosmos as a vital experience, or as cultural revitalization and/or political stand of cultural resistance.


Throughout his texts, Cayupán achieves a challenging and complex project, that writes into its core a cosmogenic narrative from the rakizuam Mapuche –ancestral traditional thinking– which creates a transformative reality that expands from the rüme fütra kuifi, the time of origins, until it returns to itself in the events of the fantepu mew- the present. Between these axes, Cayupán maintains a constant movement without end. In this cosmic happening the poetic voice seeks to express how life transforms and how humankind goes through the world, establishing the immeasurable as a measure and border of all beings. 


Word


I

It first dwelt in caves

where the myth emerged

it was the fire of every foundation

domesticated heat

Cloistered shadows

danced naturally

chasing away darkness


II

It was a pillar of every fire pit

rite of all mortals

Indissoluble matter

primary tool

natural conjure

Absolute clarity


III

It deserted from silence

It stripped its old garments off

It paraphrased within a breath

the first thing it said:

– here is water 

flour and yeast

(In other words: The Word)


IV

Then the stone spoke harshly

Filtered voices through wind

strained its design

Presage of becoming

immortal light


V

Was the word perhaps

continuation of fire

and mediator of stones?

Wherever you go

you will find the word within you

Sacred ceremony

divine worship


VI

We are fire and earth still 

carved stone

Word – People

pilgrim of empty fields

the earth our room

The night finally became day

transparency of all words

light of future

Path of humanity.


Things… Its meanings


A person was just a single handful of rocks thrown to the ground

that mystery of always being in the world

searching for a meaning in things

as if things give meaning to people

The four seasons of life

give a specific use for objects

which become part of people with time

expanding their way of conceiving the universe

The newly made figures

always look like the first light

described by a prophet

They began to name objects in a different way

languages were born and thus crafts

All things originated in the shadows

The saddlemaker, for example, learned to write knife with his blood

thus the craftsman sculpted the sad heart of the forest

the blacksmith crushed his noble fists in the forge

because shadow is the soul of things, ones own marrow

I withdraw from time

and I start a new one

with my own way of interpreting things

If destiny was to go back to the beginning

naming things with the forefinger

Then, people take

what a life on earth takes

in sprouting their seeds.


People are garments of ancient gods


Shadows that are pushed to the ground

with that bestiality that we do not comprehend

they are not a premonition of another creation

but auspice of our own existence

Who do we stop being when we are born

lighting up that mysterious hand?

The gods, on their behalf, hid their shadows

on immovable rocks

The one who manages to move the mother rock

also find the secrets of that species

But gods extinguished when people emerged

their deities were deposited in clay tombs

Then the written word came

next to the text of the forbidden fruit

The fear of snakes were developed in remote memory

in the first letter of the family tree

that is why today people seek something that they have never lost

but have been led to believe that they’ve misplaced it. 


The Tree of Life


The  first path was a handful of rocks

emerging from the earth

where Man depended upon himself

to give direction to his steps

seeking the valley of life

Upon discovering language

he traced a map in the soil

and in the same clay he wrote his history

The tree of life

is a path carved in the memory of Man

where its wood shavings celebrate

as they reunite with the early memory

A tree founded upon the root of the Word

where its trunk rises to the height of being

A strappy well-built tree rising up to the universe

Man is a path with no way out

seeking his days without end

On that same crossing

the way grows longer and burns out within

like a dull hand seeking the origin of the paternal light

The tree that we seek each day is within us

in the most intimate realm of our being.


The ceremony of each day


The boy swallows his father as usual

and it seems that every day

the father comes out from the depths of that child

to help knead the bread that the mother leaves in the oven

because she wants to see that someone eats that ancient food

placed on the recently set table 

That is the purest rite of passage from child to man

Be swallowed from the guts

and allow the father live inside his own son

so that the past that remains in his memory is alleviated

which is the origin of all family communion

When one makes a pact blood trembles

how the spell reenacts 

because in the end each ceremony has its own time

where people last as long as their family tree endures on Earth.


I Am Not Here Yet


I am a wounded word

lacking in language and space

An unspeakable word

without dictionary

or homeland

A word

that did not find a human group

to be spoken by

A word unsuspected by any mouth

In which era did we cease to be plants

to incarnate  the word

matter and spirit

naked, docile, humans?


The House in the Rock


If I made this rock my home

it was merely to discover the light that is born within her

for in every home there is a lamp made of words

that lights up with the beginning of each season

I stopped to observe the light that emerges from the stone

for in the eve of a man

things are valued in a different way

Upon speaking it, the light becomes more ancient

for there is something within her that makes us susceptible

upon seeing her through Man

I see myself in the stone when I see her foundations

because her light courses through the hands of the stonemason

and transcends the efforts of those who raised her up

with just one word written upon the earth

This rock is the shadow of a place that does not exist 

a half closed door that illuminates the craggy knob

in a manner that precedes the light

When one looks at the beams with the eyes of another

it is to make his household sturdy

for from the roots of the rock is a roof sheltering clarity

I walk around its outskirts seeking an answer

that sign that we recognize from before birth

and one feels some footsteps within

such ancient tracks within himself

it was as though he knew them by heart 

for those footsteps were made by his ancestors

Someone calls to me through a mirror

and this voice seems to approach

but as it moves, it moves away within me

When the mirror that was permanently in our house cracks

the mystery that lies within it breaks apart as well

for it is a cave of glass now living within the human genus

Who but time rebuilds its walls?

deepening it each time

The time that scarcely passes is nothing more than a delayed present

and the past that begins there is another layer of ash in the memory of Man

because the house goes back to the origins of being.


More about Cristian Cayupán

“The Proyecto Diálogo (Dialogue Project) is the only bank of images dedicated exclusively to registering and putting in circulation portraits of contemporary Mapuche writers present in Chile.” © 2018-2020 EscritoresIndigenas.cl

About Mabel García Barrera

She is an academic at the Universidad de la Frontera (“the University of the Border”), located in the city Temuco, Mapuche territory, in Chile. She is a State professor of Spanish, with a masters in literature and a degree in applied political sciences. She has investigated, written, and edited books and numerous articles about Mapuche literature and art in mainstream magazines. 



About the translators

Lorrie Jayne, a collaborator in Siwar Mayu, teaches Spanish, Portuguese, and Personal Narrative in the Languages and Literatures Department at University of North Carolina Asheville (USA).  She lives with her husband and daughters in the Appalachian Mountains where she enjoys plants, people, and poetry.


Juan G. Sánchez Martínez grew up in Bakatá, Colombian Andes. He dedicates both his creative and scholarly writing to indigenous cultural expressions from Abiayala (the Americas.) His book of poetry, Altamar, was awarded in 2016 with the National Prize Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia. He collaborates and translates for Siwar Mayu. Recent work: Muyurina y el presente profundo (Pakarina/Hawansuyo, 2019); and Cinema, Literature and Art Against Extractivism in Latin America. Dialogo 22.1 (DePaul University, 2019.)