Obsidian’s Edge 16

4:00 pm

Siesta
&
Dream

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1

Sweet wet bark bleeds until sack-
cloth binds the wounded rowan.

Claws trapped in the sacking, the sap-
sucker family points accusatory beaks.
They have fluffed up their feathers.

Red beads on the mountain ash: the young girl
offers me a rosary of bright red berries.

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Bitter on the tongue,
sunset’s first flourish tinting my dream.


2

Tochtli gnaws at the moon’s white skull.
Murciélago exits his cave with night
tightly wrapped beneath his wings.
Tezcatlipoca: a stone knife in an iron hand.

At the cathedral’s shallow edge,
the golden tree bends like a rainbow,
exposing its roots as the end draws near.

Cycle upon cycle: dead men’s gifts,
these spirits walking over night’s waters.

The dream cat’s round green eye
staring out of the window,

willing this willow pattern world

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to end its cat and mouse game:

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darkness within darkness.

Bistro 7 Flash Fiction

Discards

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Toni walked in, scowling, and strode straight up to Nando who leaned against the bar with a glass in his hand.
“You son of a bitch,” he said and swung his fist. One of the patrons, an ex-bullfighter quick on his feet and even quicker to spot a threat, stepped between them.
“Enough!” He shouted as he parried the blow.
“Are you mad?” Nando put his drink down on the bar.
“Me? Mad?” Tears ran down Toni’s angry face and his breath came in short, sharp gasps. “You’re the one who’s mad. You’re the one who’s screwing her.”
“Screwing who, for God’s sake?”
“Raquel, dammit. You know: my girl. What are you doing here anyway? Waiting for her?”
“Waiting my turn; like everyone else. And I expect they’ll call my number pretty soon.”
“You got a ticket?”
“Of course. I always get a ticket. Why?”
“Because I want her before you get her. Here, give me your ticket.”
“No way.”
“I’ll buy it off you.”
“No way.”
“Why don’t you dice for it?” The ex-bullfighter sensing the possibility of both a truce and a bit of fun broke into the conversation. “I’ll be the judge.”
“Cards?” Nando raised his eyebrows.
“Done,” Toni dabbed at his face with a grubby hanky. “But win or lose: you’re still a son of a bitch.”
“Not if I win.”
The crowd made room for the two men at the bar and Nando asked for a green cloth and a pack of cards. Shuffle and cut. Deal. Frowns and smiles. The patrons looked on in expectation and shouted and groaned with each discard. Every so often, a number was called out and a man stood up, gave his ticket to the barman, handed over some money, and went upstairs.
They played the best of seven hands. Tied at three hands each, sweat drops beaded down both their faces. The ex-bullfighter roared approval with every card and checked each discard. The patrons crowded round shouting their approval in bullfighting terms.
“¡Música! ¡Olé!” They chorused as they clapped their hands and stamped their feet.
“Number 69,” the barman roared.
Nobody moved and a silence fell over the room.
“69,” the barman’s voice repeated, a hard stone cast into the silence.
“Well, I guess that’s me,” Nando rose to his feet, put his hand in his pocket, and drew out his number.
“Son of a bitch …” Toni’s voice rose above the uproar. “I’ll get you for this!”
“”What’s it all about?” A new bass voice rose above the crowd noise. “What’s happening here?” Pedro, the owner stood behind the bar, beside the barman.
“I’m next. That’s all.” Nando waved his ticket.
“He wants my girl,” Toni screamed. “I’ll get him … ” Toni struggled through a sudden thicket of arms to get at Nando.
“And who’s your girl?” Pedro’s deep bass voice rose up and conquered the room.
“Raquel,” Toni stood there, defiant.
“Raquel?” The owner of the deep bass voice sounded incredulous. “Raquel? Raquel!” He shouted. “Raquel, get your ass down here.”
Silence.
All eyes turned to the staircase behind the bar.
A beautiful, dark-haired, brown-eyed woman walked slowly into the room.
“This Raquel?” The owner’s voice shuddered in disbelief. “My wife? The woman carrying my child?”
Toni and Nando stood there, staring eyes, mouths open.
“Get out,” the owner said. “I never want to see either of you here in my bar again.”
He drew a battle-field green Glock 21 from an inside pocket, pointed it at them, and shouted: “Run!”
Toni and Nando ran from the bar, their tails between their legs.

 

Re-Writing or Writing?

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I think of myself as a writer, but when push comes to really thinking about it, I am indeed a person who re-writes and re-vises continuously. In order to do this, it is necessary to read and re-read. If a word, or even a comma, in a poem troubles me, then it is a sign that something is wrong, somewhere. Whenever I am faced by this sensation that “something is wrong”, then I re-read, re-think, re-plan, re-vise, re-visit and re-write.

I try to re-work and re-think by asking myself (a) what is missing and (b) what can I add and (c) how am I linking things and (d) am I over-complicating and (e) what is the burning heart of the matter and (f) what am I really trying to say and (g) have I managed to actually say it. If the answer to any of these questions raises even more questions, then it’s back to the drawing board. No: a re-writer’s life is not an easy one.

I usually keep my early variants to poems (and other prose works) in chronological order and I find it useful to go back to that first precious moment of inspiration. Did I stay true to it? Did it change? How? Was the change for the better or for the worse? Occasionally, re-writing takes the original spirit right of the piece. It is sometimes very, very hard to re-write that inspiration back in, without re-turning to the original. If I am in difficulty, I will re-write from a different point of view: another person speaking, perhaps, or in prose, or as a stream of consciousness. This exercise, and that should probably be written in the plural, will either present me with a viable alternative or confirm me in (a) my original wording or (b) a new form of wording. Another simple (relatively speaking) exercise is to check for structure, theme, metaphor, and wording: are they all neatly tied together and well-linked?

This happened to me today with Obsidian’s Edge 14 & 15. Neither of my many attempts at taking Dainzú and placing it into words on a page felt right. Something was missing. But what? I couldn’t put my finger on what was going wrong. I spoke with Jiminy, my friendly Cricket Conscience, and he asked me several questions that I couldn’t answer. Luckily, I was able to choose the TV Show option phone a friend, so I did.

My friend too was troubled by these poems and said that I hadn’t managed to produce anything that seemed to express my better poetic self as he knew it. We talked out several possibilities. “Perhaps you need a lizard,” he said. “It’s a dry, dusty landscape. It can sit on a wall. But don’t worry: you’ll think of something.”

When I put the phone down, I went back to work. Sure, I was struggling with OE 15, but when I checked back to OE 14, I saw that I had been struggling with that too, but without realizing it. What to do? First, I tried writing about the lizard; then I tried adding water and lack of water; then I re-wrote from the point of view of the old lady in the poem. This certainly felt better. Then I shifted images from OE 15 back into OE 14. Then I re-wrote OE 14 from the point of view of the old woman. The poem started to feel better.

The secret, I think, is for me to relax, to be myself, to let the poem flow into me, and then to let it flow out again. I must remember not to force my writing, but to let it flow, and to continue writing as I want to write while paying attention to the small details of which I am becoming more and more aware every day. We are all creative — or we wouldn’t be here, reading this: we must let that creativity flow.

Friends are essential. Writing groups are useful. But the real secret is to develop and polish our own creativity. We must also learn to develop our own voices and to have confidence in those creative sparks that dwell within us. It is only by entering and re-entering that personal creative space that we can write and re-write in the way we really want. And we must have courage: the courage to tear down the wall and free that which is within and let it roam, un-fenced and at will. Like the cattle, like the dogs, like the wind-blown dust my old lady will see and feel, sandpaper on her skin, in the next version of her poem.

 

 

Obsidian’s Edge 15

3:00 pm

Old Woman
@

Dainzú

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5

Sandpaper wind
polishing the land
erasing its identity
as barefoot
over dust and stone
the old woman
feasts her heart
on a banquet of song.

A rag-bag her body
stitched together
by memories and bone.

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6

She shows me fear
in these grey shadows
dancing their dust
beneath carved rocks.

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7

Abandoned now,
visited only by ghosts,
this resurrected ball park.
Buried beneath their stones
its heroes,
the men who wooed her.

I look at carved faces.

Which one captured
her flowering heart,
pierced it with an arrow,
and scarred her name
forever
letter by letter
on the face of this rock
?

Obsidian’s Edge 14

2:45 pm

Old Woman
@

Dainzú

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 1

Dusty paths
meander beneath
a drifting sun.

Shiftless ruins
cloak the land
in worn-out
shadow rags.

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Scrawny cattle
herded by an old man
and his sly-eyed dogs:

the old woman,
threatened,
stoops and picks up
a handful of stones.

Moving targets:
dust and shadows of dust.
So much stone and sand
sifted through the hand
and trodden underfoot.

3

In the distance,
a low mound
covered with grass and weeds:

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her family’s ancestral home,
its bountiful community
abandoned to the wilderness,
to the wild thorn
thrusting its spear
through her mortal heart.

Weed-filled walls,
empty houses, ruined fields.

4

Wise old woman
with her hands full of stones:

that first rock
freed from her fist
booms thunder
off the sheep
in a  wolf-skin’s
cowardly frame.

 

Let the candles melt

 

 

 

 

 

The title is a line from one of Nandita’s poems. I thought it was a striking image and would make a great start to a new poem. I told Nandita this and she and I agreed to  write a duet together. This is the first time I have written a  “duet”  with someone else. I hope it won’t be the last … Nandita is a very talented lady and a gifted poet. Click on the following link for her blog. It’s well worth a visit or two or three.

mananunleashed.wordpress.com

 

 

Your face your name
flicker in the candle flame
Your words your voice
burning with grace and poise

bruised clouds on the evening sky
  my arid heart awaits your rain
A burst of silver lining before I die
a soothing balm to my aching pain

your shadow on my mind
        how can we be so blind
Your name in my heart
beating like a chained beast

curled up like a dog
asleep at your feet
Let your senses awaken
let dreams and reality meet

Spent match this candle
Light another one from my mantle
let love be heartfelt
let the candles melt

 

Bistro 6 Flash Fiction

Crazy Glue

Late last night, a fallen star grazed by the lamp-post. A bouquet of golden sparks flew from an iron tree and sanctified the gutter. The gas lamps sputtered patiently in uniform rows. A scarecrow stuttered into the limelight and shook my hand. She was wearing my grandmother’s Easter bonnet, with all the flowers renewed, but she couldn’t keep my heart from last winter’s left over crumbs. Suddenly a tulip thrust through the concrete. It became as red as a robin and flew into the lounge bar of a public house. The bronze leaf necklace circling my throat filled with a flow of springtime song. My heart stood upright, a warped piano in my breast, and my skeleton tarried at the corner to play knuckle-bones with the wind. Torn butterflies of news fluttered round and round and kissed my eyelids when they closed. Yesterday’s horoscope winked its subversive eye and called to the hermit in his lonely cell: “Look out for the stranger with the tin can alley smile. Tie your heart to the tail of the first stray dog that comes whistling down the street and follow it home to the empty house that breathes in and out, moving thin membranes of memory.”

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That’s where I now live. Upstairs, downstairs, a lonely route I tread while the wind at the window scratches tiny notes. Something breaks loose in the confines of my mind and walks beside me. My twin brother stalks through this silvery sliver of splintered glass, this simian mirror wrinkling our troubled suits of skin. I glimpse the old moon’s monkey face through a broken window. Jagged and thin, it wanders like an itinerant snail, cobbled with clumsy clouds. Once, I descended the playground slide in a shower of sparks. A vagabond in a paving stone sky, I rumbled across metal cracks, a knapsack of nightmares humped on my old man’s back. Tell me: when the snail moves house, who stores the furniture he leaves behind? The hermit crab lurks naked on the beach, seeking new lodgings. Who killed the candle and left us in darkness?

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Two eyes in limbo watch me roll this snowman’s belly of flab across an unknown, clouded room where yesterday I got lost in the mirror. I know how to swim, but I would have drowned, except the light was too shallow and my feet touched bottom when I let the wheels down. I swam on and in looking for a deserted island on which to build my idle sand castle dreams. Two people said they saw my reflection swimming like a goldfish in the silver of that secret space. They said I stared back out at them with circles of longing ringing my eyes; but I laughed when they said they had seen me, for when I looked in the mirror this morning to shave, I just wasn’t there. My razor dragged itself over an empty space and its sharpened blade scraped white music from the margin of a cd rom that spun on edge like dust rings round a vanished planet. Now there is a black hole where my passport photo used to thrive. Someone plucked me from the circle and cut me out in the dance last night. Today I’m looking for a scrapbook in which to stick myself with crazy glue that never, never, ever comes undone.

Obsidian’s Edge 13

2:00 PM
In the zócalo

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1

Three brujas:
one spins the yarn,
one measures the cloth,
one wields the black obsidian knife,
trimming each tiny thread.

Infinitesimal clockwork figures
balancing on wool,
their mouths opening
and closing, silent, like goldfish.

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Wooden teeth comb each thread,
the shuttle always moving,
weaving whose fate?

Interlaced castillos,
scintillating cities,
grecas floating lighter
than this relámpago
lightening the air.

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2

Or you can start with the glow-
worm of a match – luciérniga,
Lucifer – the bringer of light.

High flames flickering
on zopilote’s wings
bring an end to darkness.

Women at their chimeneas
breathe fire into shavings,
a red glow into charcoal,
flame into fire hungry bark.

Watch the new life kindle the clouds,
the new day walking its plank of fire.

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Your shadow on the wall:
a new star rising
among star-crossed generations.

Bistro 4 Flash Fiction

CJ

 

            Tom knocked on the hotel room door and Dick opened it. He took a pace back and whistled. “What have you done?”
“Isn’t she a beauty?” Tom’s hand twisted into the waist of her skirt as if he were afraid she’d fall over without his support.
Tom and Dick helped her into the hotel room.
“What’s your name, darling?” Harry came out from the bathroom, wearing only his shorts. “You’re a cutie.”
The girl half-stumbled and Tom held her steady while Dick took the bottle from her. Old, and slightly dusty, it had an air of quaint respectability that belongs only to genies or expensive liqueurs.
Dick put the bottle on the bedside table. Tom held the girl, from behind, by the arms, and Harry started to unbutton her blouse. Harry kissed her full on the lips. She showed no sign of resistance, not even when Harry thrust his tongue into her mouth.
“What’s her name?” Dick asked.
Tom shrugged and pointed to a tattoo on the girl’s wrist where the initials “CJ” faced off against a crimson heart around which a large worm-like creature curled.
“Are you CJ?” Dick questioned her and she nodded.
“Op-p-p-pen the bot-t-t-le,” she whispered.
“All in good time,” Dick took her by the hand and led her towards the bed. Tom and Harry looked at each other and started to laugh.
“Oh boy, is this our lucky day,” Tom went into the bathroom and brought out three glasses.
“Only three?” Harry asked.
“She’s out of it,” Tom nodded his head.
“It’s mezcal, isn’t it?” Harry shook at the bottle. “Look: it’s got three worms in it, one for each of us.”

* * *

Later, the three boys sat in front of the television to take in the football game. They sipped at the large glasses of yellow liquid they held in their hands.
CJ lay on the bed, naked, oblivious. Her lips moved as if she were praying. On her arm, the tattoo had changed shape. The worm, uncurling, now flowed into a single word: bruja.

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* * *

“First and goal!” The boys stared at the screen. Behind them, the bottle on the night table started to shake.
“Second and one!” The boys were bewitched by the game. Behind them, the bottle on the table grew in size and the three yellow worms that had been sleeping at the bottle’s bottom, swelled with it, and slowly swam to the top of the yellow liquid.
“Third and one!” The boys were besotted, their eyes glued on the tv screen. Behind them, the three worms emerged from the bottle and stood on the hotel room floor, dominating the room, a trio of unspoken elephants.
“Go, go, go!” The three boys raised their arms.

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* * *

The room stands empty now.
CJ has gone. She has been returned to her own room where she is guarded by two enormous presences that have cleaned and bathed her wounds. They have blessed her with their twin gifts of wholeness and holiness and now they are allowing her forgetfulness and sleep.

* * *

In that other hotel room, the screen door to the balcony lies open. On the ground five stories below, three male bodies lie. Sirens wail. The police cordon off the area. Ambulances arrive, sirens wailing.
Above them in the room, a yellow presence scours the surroundings, devouring all evidence of CJ’s sloughed skin.

* * *

On the sleeping girl’s wrist, the initials “CJ” face off against a crimson heart besides which three large worm-like creatures stand on guard.

* * *

 

Obsidian’s Edge 12

1:15 pm
Water 2

Water seeks its final solution as it slips from cupped hands.
Does it remember when the earth was without form
and darkness was upon the face of the deep?

The waters under heaven were gathered into one place
and the firmament appeared.
Light was divided from darkness
and with the beginning of light came The Word,
and words, and the world …

… the world of water in which I was carried
until the waters broke
and the life sustaining substance drained away
throwing me from dark to light.

The valley’s parched throat longs for water,
born free, yet everywhere imprisoned:

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in chains, in bottles, in tins, in jars, in frozen cubes,
its captive essence staring out with grief filled eyes.

A young boy on a tricycle bears a dozen prison cells,
each with forty captives: forty fresh clean litres of water.
“¡Peragua!” he calls. “¡Super Agua!”

He holds out his hand for money
and invites me to pay a ransom,
to set these prisoners free.

Real water yearns to be released,
to be set free from its captivity,
to trickle out of the corner of your mouth,
to drip from your chin,
to seek sanctuary in the ground.

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Real water slips through your hair
and leaves you squeaky clean.
It is a mirage of palm trees upon burning sand.

It is the hot sun dragging its blood red tongue across the sky
and panting for water like a great big thirsty dog.

Water 1 (Obsidian’s Edge 11) was published in At the Edge of Obsidian (2005). Water 2 (Obsidian’s Edge 12) was re-written earlier this year for Obsidian’s Edge. Both attempts are interesting (for different reasons) and I am wondering whether to keep both versions. Obsidian’s Edge is the continuing rewrite of the earlier book. This re-write is part of the ongoing revision of The Oaxacan Trilogy.