Richard Weekley's Mayan Night rings as true now, as we approach 2012 and the end of the Mayan Calendar, as it did when he wrote these poems while living amongst the Maya in the highlands of Guatemala in 1979.
Reading Mayan Night 30 years ago and again in 2011, I now appreciate much more deeply the feelings about the reality of globalization that Richard Weekley documents in poetry. Perhaps this is because I am older. Perhaps it is because I have since spent many years living among indigenous people in Central and South America.
When I first read Mayan Night in 1981 I was one of the people with "... tourist eyes awash with romantic glint . . . " that Weekley describes in his poem "double vision in paradise". Later I felt like the
". . . backpacks of the young and the daring old / leave in doddering droves / looking for a paradise elsewhere; / staring in awe at / backward indian villages; / contemplating slow paced peasants / like / divine messengers / from another planet . . ."
Like many travellers and ex-pats I have experienced the frustration of "(seeing) both sides / of some strange mirror / the natives cannot see through . . . " as "today technology teases. / tomorrow it will trounce ". Like Weekley I mourn as"another culture is dying. / ancient traditions are drying up / and blowing away / like road dust / drifting over fallow corn stalks. / the simple people have been invaded, again."
Invaded. Weekley takes on this topic of Imperialism in many of his poems. In "to a missionary," Weekley turns the tables and invites this missionary, or any person who believes he is right and everyone else is wrong, to imagine what "if brown Mayans invaded Utah / with tan baskets of truth / balanced on their heads / and told you - / God made white men last / and . . . your only chance at eternal life (is) to live on a mud floor / and eat beans and tortillas / for the rest of your life".