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  • Fabula
  • Dolores Flores-Silva (bio) and Keith Cartwright (bio)

Imagine a story that is like the DNA of an organism. Story spiraled around protein spindles and other encasings of fact and fiction. Fabula … first one thing and then another. Who first told the tale that a seed could be saved? Planted? Improved … over generations?

Consider Aesop, "The Ant and the Grasshopper": "In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest." What reader doesn't know what's coming as this Ant bears civilization's fruits and burdens? Both winter and the ever-present moral: "IT IS BEST TO PREPARE FOR THE DAYS OF NECESSITY."1 We know too that this Ant from the Greek world of sixth century BC was not carrying an ear of maize, even if ants could perform Herculean feats. Maize was telling its own fable, elsewhere.

Mythos (Greek for "story") explains how things came to be, through sacred fictions considered true. Fabula (Latin for "a telling") plays more openly with the truth via allegorical personification still shrouded in mythic shape-shifting, sometimes offering a simple moral, but more often underscoring societal rules only to cut against their grain and open up freewheeling critique. In this fabulous world the takeaway is up for grabs, open to interpretations drawn from the critters' fights over staples of power: food, sex; sex, food, carnal knowledge or authority. "Our Greece," given a Nativist reading … boils down to corn, grits, pozole, your mama. And the ways Mama may answer back.

We want to tell a story. How the animals are persons, how persons are plant and animal. Fabula says we are children of the corn. Seeds we have saved conscripted us … to grow diversely and change. Imagine, a maize-matrix domesticating the domesticators. Say in Tabasco or Veracruz where maize began to write itself: trefoil signs like a fleur-de-lis, two leaves with a cob in the middle coming out of a man's head. In this culture of maize, fabulist thought nurtured the kab'awil or "double gaze" within which writing emerged as glyphed fabulation. "Here we shall inscribe, / we shall implant the Ancient Word, / the potential," the Popul Vuh tells us in a book of myth that is also fable upon fable.2 [End Page 387]

One of us grows up near the source of the seed, hears her grandmother tell its fabulas in Spanish, fed by Nahuatl between walks in the mountains. Seven-flower's story gets told between tortillas, feeds something that grows with Rabbit tales, Cri-Cri, Macondo, and the Greeks, with Russian formalism in the university, fabula … the story told, first one thing and then another in Xalapa, O-hi-o, Kain-tuck-ee, Roan-oke. Moving the way the seed moved across Indigenous borders—north and east. To where Cherokee tell of an ancestral grandmother who scraped grits from her legs and whose body itself was corn, and where Seminole peoples have told it much the same, or have boiled the Bible down to a story of how Jesus "taught people how to grow corn."3

One of us grows up eating grits and cornbread in Kentucky, Rabbit tales fabulated by grandfolks. Watches Bugs Bunny. Reads Tar Baby, Macondo, and Homer, follows one day the peregrination back to a source: seven million pilgrims at Tepeyac … south and west—the hill where Tonantzin made the maize grow. Our Mother the snake, Our Mother Corn, Madre Guadeloupe. Imagine turning the pages of a newspaper the next day in the Mexico City bus station to a flash-image of the age-old fabula: an anthropomorphized ear of maize—a young boy in a spandex suit of kernels, maroon and yellow, face painted in the same kernelled style, hair all tassled silks, lower body wrapped in corn leaves amid a green cornfield. The advertisement offers the clearest moral: "La biodiversidad es vida y future para nuestros hijos" [Biodiversity is life and future for our children].4 More to the point, imagine a cultural politics that would get...


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pp. 387-391
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