cover image Thunderweavers/ Tejedoras de Rayos

Thunderweavers/ Tejedoras de Rayos

Juan Felipe Herrera. University of Arizona Press, $17.95 (150pp) ISBN 978-0-8165-1986-6

Blood travels past the kitchens/ the television and an altar of maize fade./ Travels along the wound of Mexico/ an X in the center of its heart."" The voices and psyches of four related indigenous women from the devastated village of Acteal, Chiapas, are hauntingly channeled by Herrera in this bilingual collection of fierce, anguished lyrics. Herrera (Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream; Crashboomlove; etc. ), who often performs with a theater troupe and has authored two children's books, deftly handles each of his four characters without condescension, as they are scattered in the wake of a paramilitary assault on their hometown: ""you are the wise one, your flag upon the residences/ of cholera and dissolved bones under puddles, stars/ shredded in the pits."" A mother, grandmother, lost 12-year old daughter, and her pregnant 17-year-old sister wander separately through a surreal landscape of burning cornfields, ribbons of fabric and flesh, and ""that tiny girl democracy."" Images repeat through the book's four sections (one per character), slowly transformed by the stark perceptions of each character's mind and senses into Mayan symbols for five hundred years of oppression. Herrera handles complex, wrenching material with a chilling tone that is at once furiously resistant, unsentimental and deeply wounded. (The back-to-back English and Spanish allows the reader a fluid read in either language.) Conceived as part homage to the area's people and part testimonial, the book, Herrera's 12th, strengthens Arizona's impressive and vital list of poetry by major Chicano writers. (Mar.)