El Juego de Palos (The Play of Sticks)

Usted a lo mejor piensa que lo que voy a decir es mentira, pero es una verdad del tamaño del sol.

El juego de palos tiene una música secreta que solo la pueden oír aquellos a quienes el juego les ha metido en la sangre. Por eso cuando vea a dos hombres jugando como es,

echándole recio y al cuerpo,

quédese calladito como si estuviera en una iglesia, esos hombres están como transportados a otro mundo;

cada vez que los garrotes chocan, cuando zumban cortando el aire,

cuando soplan la carne tan de cerquita que da grima,

en fin, cuando uno llega a imaginarse si será que los palos tienen vida y se mueven solos como si en vez de ser dos hombres jugando palos

fueran dos palos jugando hombres, o como si esos hombres respiraran por los garrotes,

son momentos sagrados…

Todo eso hace que el garrotero sienta por dentro un canto mágico, que es como una mezcla antiquísima de

gritos de guerra, ondear de banderas, rechinar de cadenas, silencio de muertos.

Es un eco que surge de lo más puro de la sangre: conquistas, colonias, esclavitudes, libertades, dictaduras, cárceles, guerrillas, muertes,

sobrevivir, sobrevivir, sobrevivir…

Es una reminiscencia ancestral de las violencias que han forjado las patrias…

Y eso es sagrado.

Eduardo Sanoja

At best, you will think what I am going to tell you is a lie, but it is a truth as large as the sun.

Stick play has a secret music that only those who have the game in their blood can hear.

For this reason, when you see two men playing, throwing themselves into it with strength

Remain quiet, as though you were in a church

It is as though those men are transported to another world, every time the sticks collide,

when they buzz, cutting the air, when the gust of a strike blows so close to the flesh that it gives you chills

At last, when you come to where you can imagine that the sticks are alive and move on their own, and instead of two men at play with sticks,

two sticks are at play with men, or as though the men breathe through their sticks,

Those are sacred moments.

All of this makes the stickmaster feel within him a magic hymn that is like an ancient mix of

war cries, undulating flags, creaking chains, the silence of the dead.

It is an echo that surges within those of the purest blood, conquests, colonies, enslavement, freedom, dictatorships, jails, warriors, the dead,

surviving, surviving, surviving

It is an ancestral reminiscence of the violence that has forged homelands,

and that is sacred.

Eduardo Sanoja

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3 Responses to “El Juego de Palos (The Play of Sticks)”

  1. Miguel Angel Cordero Chavier Says:

    Hello. The translation is “Venezuelan stick fighting”. “The play of sticks” is a literal translation, but it does not represent the sense of the idea. Anyway, thank you for posting this written thought of the master Eduardo Sanoja. My best regards.

    • Miguel,

      Thanks for the input.

      I liked the term “play” because Filipino stick fighters use it, and I thought Eduardo’s poetry captured the spirit of that idea, where stick fighting is a form of sheer joy wherein the practitioner is caught up and loses awareness of time and himself.

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