Caminante, Anticaminante (Traveler, Anti-Traveler)

Nighttime in Mérida. A restaurant whose name I don't know. Two singers dressed in Mexican costumes are singing on the platform.Caminante, / Caminante, / Walking on our roads,The ancient roads/ of Mayab…How can we translate this word "caminante"? "Traveler"? No, I don't like it. Maybe "voyager." But this word is overused in a country with gods made of stone, too aged between routine and fashion to even say something about those who have wandered guided by their own thirst.Who sees burning in the afternoon / The wings of the xtacay…The wings of the xtacay? It's the only bird I've heard about all this journey and which is mentioned by legends, a bird with long beautiful feathers in its tail and with a crown of feathers on its head, forever changing its colour from blue to green: the quetzal bird.Who sees sparkling in the night / The eyes of The jungle, the creepers you have to remove to continue your way… where to? To the heart of the jungle and of fear or backwards?Caminante, / Caminante, / Who hears the sad songOf the blue dove…Hindi wise men claim that there are four seasons in a lifetime. One to study and discover the world. The second to establish a home. The third to think and meditate. And, finally, the fourth one, in which freed of inhibitions and obsessions you become a sort of baggage-less traveler. But when will I be able to free myself of inhibitions and obsessions? I'll probably never be a baggage-less traveler. Sometimes I was tempted to agree with those who haven't even left their hometown. Maybe the child, who was counting stars on top of the mountains at night, just as you count grains of maize, still lives inside me, and maybe this is my luck.And the quivering cry / Of the cucuy bird…Yes, the consolation of remaining the same in a world in which it is said that "everything changes." Still I have admitted somewhere in this journal that we do belong to the time we live in the more we try to deny ourselves of it.Caminante, / Caminante, / Who walks the roads…"We are in a hurry!" …Where did this happen? An office clerk passed near us and answered in a polite but annoying manner: "Will you please wait a second." Then suddenly amused and friendly, he smiled and added continuing on his way: "A Mexican second"…Please tell me if you had seen / A white cloud appearingWhich had come and then went away… I'm carrying with me four mangos from Villahermosa but I don't touch them. I want to take them home.And if you had listened…I remember the Veracruz rain, which filled the night like the flight of a cloud of locusts, the afternoon in Palenque sealed by the shadow of a man who used to cut with a strange blade the lianas, the sky in Teotihuacan, just like the big blue tears that drop from the eyes of the goddess Coatlicue, the lighted fatigue from Chichen-Itzá when I used to think I had seen all the pyramids of the world…And I had listened / To a song / Like the voice of a woman, Caminante, / Caminante…Always the same thirst. Walking, searching, searching… for gold, truth, happiness, the gold seekers, these divisions aren't really correct, but the world has the voluptuousness of classifications… Perhaps I haven't been on my most important journeys. I kept on dreaming about them and in this way they never ended. And even more than that. I haven't even begun them. Thus they remain only a hope. Or I might say as Blaga did: "I'm searching, I don't know what I'm searching. Underneath yesterday's stars, / underneath things passed, I'm searching / the turned off light I keep on praising."Walking on my way / I have seen the white cloud… The white cloud over a dark sky, a sky that seems to be dragging itself sometimes, the tragic shadow of the chandelier cacti martyred by the sun…Various details travel through my mind… Indians cooking their tortillas… rains resembling a jungle… constant lack of water… photographs taken besides the stony smile of the gods… those gods whom you can meet in the evening if you loiter near a forest (forests don't get dark in the evenings in Mexico; they die out)… the black dog of loneliness creeping around in broad daylight… the shouts of the newspaper boys… the silence with its own eloquence… the boulevards where you risk of being run down by cars… the game of pellet, sunny but also dangerous, where some people watch, others go down in the arena, while the audience is weighing their jewelry in the palm of their hands and butterflies flutter around… the colourful plazas where commerce is but a mere pretext for a show, for the pleasure of selling and buying… the volcanoes craters facing the skies just like the blind eyes of the statues… What unites all these? A secret and simple Mexico at the same time, which gives a so-called "immediate eternity" to the one who crosses it, where time becomes ambiguous. The American drinks peacefully his bottle of Coca-Cola on the steps of a Maya pyramid, still the next moment he feels an unexplainable awkwardness… something is different here from the way he is used to measure and judge everything, the gods with empty eye sockets can't see the Cadillac waiting for him by the ruins, they are looking at something else, the dust which the wind had risen on the roads or the crawling clouds in the sky…I too have heard the song / Poor me, /Caminante, / Caminante…I wonder who said wisdom comes with old age?Walking on my way / I have seen the white cloud…Undeciphered hieroglyphs are sometimes more eloquent than the chattering of the guides. At least they only tell us what we feel like hearing. Caminante, anticaminante, why not?I too have heard the song, Caminante, / Caminante…This caminante was building pyramids and then he was leaving them, and not even today can we explain surely why he did this… But after climbing so many pyramids, I know that the top of the pyramid doesn't represent the end of the steps, but their hope. Where the pyramid seemed to be ending, it was barely beginning. It continues where the constructors have stopped and have discovered that maybe the pyramid wasn't close to the sky but close to them… And maybe this was the only chance of a caminante. To discover within himself what he had been searching for all along. I understand why for poets Copernicus doesn't really exist. They don't want to admit that in the center of the universe may be something else rather than the soul of a man. I have to thank this country, those days and nights for everything they have taught me on the empty steps. At the end of these steps it's my duty to continue.Excerpted from: Caminante, Eminescu, 1980 

by Octavian Paler