Inquisitor

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Inquisitor

Inquisitor

He told me to read,
and plucked my left eye from its orbit.
He slashed the glowing globe of the other.
Knowledge leaked out, loose threads dangled.
He told me to speak and I squeezed dry dust
to spout a diet of Catechism and Confession.

He emptied my mind of poetry and history.
He destroyed the myths of my people.
He filled me with fantasies from a far-off land.
I live in a desert where people die of thirst,
yet he talked to me of a man who walked on water.

On all sides, as stubborn as stucco,
the prison walls listened and learned.
I counted the years with feeble scratches:
one, five, two, three.

For an hour each day the sun shone on my face,
for an hour at night the moon kept me company.
Broken worlds lay shattered inside me.
Dust gathered in my people’s ancient dictionary.

My heart was like a spring sowing
withering in my chest
It longed for the witch doctor’s magic,
for the healing slash of wind and rain.

The Inquisitor told me to write down our history:
I wrote … how his church … had come … to save us.

Inquisitor was also a requested reading last Saturday. My promise, to put it up on the blog, with a reading in my own voice is now fulfilled. I love this poem: it speaks volumes about the Catholic Church in Oaxaca and the relationship of the Dominicans with the local people, aboriginals all and inhabitants of the Valley of Oaxaca for at least 10,000 years. The numbers represent the approximate date, 1523, of the arrival of the Conquistadores in Oaxaca, about three years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital, now Mexico City. The poem, Inquisitor, can be found in Sun and Moon and also in Stars at Elbow and Foot, both available through this link.

Sacrifice

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Last night, a cataract of flame
flowed down the cathedral wall.
A wooden bull danced in the square,
sparks struck fire from his horse-hide hair.
A red speck on my shirt burned through to my skin.

Today a heart of fire burns in an iron barrel:
who will be chosen for the daily sacrifice?

A sharp blue guillotine poised between
buildings: this slice of morning sky.
Scorched circles, open mouths:
wide-open butterfly eyes burn holes
in the crowd’s dark cloud of a face.

A street musician stands in the shade
beneath the arches playing a marimba.
Sun tip-toesits danse macabre
across bamboo tubes. Sunlit bubbles
float dreams across the square.

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Spooky

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Spooky

As Halloween draws near, the people at the park, Mactaquac Park, begin to spookify the countryside. Here’s the giant spider, coming to get you. It is the first in a series of spookified spookies.

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And here’s the spookified ‘what will it be”? Might be a spookified pussy dog or a spookified puppy cat. Who knows? Right now it looks more cute than wicked. Keep it that way, I say.

 

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No, they’re not here yet, but watch out for the boogies and the boogeymen. They’re not far away. And they may just be out to get you. So, when someone says ‘Trick of treat’? Be sure to say ‘treat!” You want the dog biscuit, not the Rottweiler. And don’t forget to drool and say ‘pretty please’.

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What we do know is that when autumn leaves, strange things creep in to fill our minds and take autumn’s place. It’s that creepy-crawly time, that time of night mists and strange visions, that season of mellow mists and fruitiness when things that go bump in the night suddenly do just that.

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Autumnal

 

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Autumnal

Skeletal rattle of autumn trees their crisp,
leaves fallen beneath barren branches.
Rat-a-tat rap of dead bone music dries out
flowers, shakes seed pods. Summer’s end
yammers its ruby-sweet, rose-tinted world
where petalled hope and October carnival,
with its ghoulish goulash, mish-mash mix
far-fetched mismatched face. Gruesome
uniforms, fairy-faced, gauze-winged, facile.

Cadaverous danse macabre of death mask
clowns posing distorted in a hall of mirrors
for selfies. The drowned moon needs a kiss
of life. Last night, she peeped through my
window and nuzzled me. This morning my
head is full of mystery, poetry, and dreams.
I analyse them. None of them make sense.

Catch Up

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Catch up

The mask I wear has strings
attached. Two I have tied,
two more hang down like
pigtails, swaying as I walk.

My tongue pulses round
my mouth in search of
that tooth I cracked, yet
afraid of its sharp-edged scar.

It feels as if I have lost
a part of my life and I am
running in circles looking for it.
I guess I’ll catch up with it
someday, and when I do,
I hope it will know me
and tell me who and what I am.

Meanwhile, the mask clings
heavy to my features
and prompts me in the new
role I must play. My friends
walk past me now
and do not stop to talk.

When I look in the mirror,
I no longer recognize myself.
All my ID is fake. The success
of my disguise fills my empty head
with a sudden sense of shame
and I know the sound of sorrow.

Mist

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Kingsbrae 19.1
19 June 2017

Mist

Full sail, the sailing ship, clawing
into the mist. For a moment, only
mast-head showing, then hazy at
last, vanishing, appearing again,
doubt in the beholder’s mind: is she
or isn’t she, real or apparition? So
easy to believe in ghosts and ghost
ships when mist deceives and eyes
grieve for the subtlety of a clear
day, not mist enveloping the bay,
holding the boat back with tenuous
tendrils, ghostly fingers, damp music
on sails and cordage, shallow the sea,
the channel through sand banks and
pebbles, half -seen, yet known about,
both sensed and scented, heard from
water –sound, wave-pitch changing
and lost again the schooner, grey ship,
grey camouflage blanket of clinging mist.

Doppelganger

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Doppelgänger

When I walked in through
the hospice’s glass door
I met myself walking out.

A curious sensation:
seeing two separate versions of me
side by side in sympathetic union.

When I got to my room,
I looked in the mirror:
how long had I been like this?

My two-faced, double head
joined at the neck,
a Siamese twin of myself,
never knowing which was which
nor whether I was coming or going.

What grief there will be
when the mirror shatters
and nothing remains
but a black space
adorning a broken
wall in an empty room.

People of the Mist 10

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7:45 AM

Bare knuckles rapped against the frame of the open door and Mario stood there, blocking out the sunlight.

“Come in, Mario,” Tim said, hiding the medallion under a serviette that lay on the table. For some reason, he didn’t want the handyman see the medallion; but it didn’t matter, for Mario shook his head.

“It’s a pig day,” he announced from the doorway.

“Why is it a big day, Mario?”

“Not a big day, a pig day, you know, the day when you collect all your left-over food and I take it home to feed my pig. Sure, you remember.”

“Ah yes,” Tim sighed. “A pig day it is. When are you leaving?”

“I leave in about an hour. I just want to give you time to gather all your scraps. Then I will put them together with all the other people’s scraps and I will offer them to my pig.”

“How is the pig?”

“She is well, very well, and getting very fat,” Mario choked back what might have been a sob. “Soon I’ll have to sell her. I can’t stay, I must go now.”

Mario ducked his head and huddled away to the next apartment where he knocked on the door and Tim heard echoes of an almost identical conversation.

The sánate bird again scraped his knife-blade along the grindstone outside the window as

Tim divided the kitchen waste into two different bags, labelled edible and non-edible. When the bags were packed, he took the edible waste down to the courtyard.

Henry, the American missionary who had arrived here several months ago, stood by the container that Mario had left out for the pig food. Back in the States, Henry had made a fortune from the evangelical trade. Thousands of ardent listeners sent him the money he needed to build special projects in the good name of the Lord. In the Lord’s Name and to do His Good Work and spread His Holy Word, Henry owned a TV station and a Radio Station. With money to spend and the good word to spread, he had already involved himself in several financial transactions here in Oaxaca. The local people asked many questions about him, more often than not behind his back.

His latest plan was to develop The First Temple of the Rising Prophet. Nobody knew what this sect did and to find out, one had to become initiated into it and swear the vows of obedience and secrecy. Henry was founder, chief preacher, and high priest of the First Temple and he every day he tried to persuade all the foreign tourists who owned American money to join his new church.

“Are you feeding Maritormes, too?” Henry raised his hat as he greeted Tim.
Maritormes?”

“Yes, Maritormes, that’s what Mario calls his porker. Do you think it’s named after his mother-in-law?” Henry’s accent made the name sound like Merry Torment. “It’s a funny name for a porker.”

“How is the pig?”

“Doing fine,” said Henry, “and almost ready to be slaughtered and sold. Sssh! Here comes Mario. He gets weepy about his porker, you know.”

Mario walked across the courtyard and took the bag full of edible garbage from Henry’s hand.

“You don’t have to sell the porker, Mario,” Henry had held this opinion since he first heard about Mario’s pig. “You could raffle it. Then you could slaughter it and you could sell tickets for that too. I’d help you to sell the tickets. After the slaughter, you could do a barbecue, real American style, and my fellow First Templars could come round and eat. At ten bucks, US dollars, for each Templar, plus the lucky people we’re in the process of converting and persuading, we’d make a load more money barbecuing than selling, you know.”

“In my village we raise our pigs by hand and we don’t barbecue them,” said Mario with a great sadness in his voice. “That would be like sacrificing a friend.”

“There’s a first time for everything, you know,” Henry rubbed his thumb across his index finger and held the imaginary money up for inspection.

“I don’t think you’d all turn up. Once you saw the pig being slaughtered, you wouldn’t want to eat it. It isn’t everyone who can witness the slaughter of a pig.”

“He’s right,” Tim said. “I’m still tormented by my first memories of a pig slaughter and I can’t forget the anguished human squeal it gave as the knife pierced its neck. Lots of tourists feel sick as soon as they see the first drop of pig’s blood dripping off the knife-blade.”

“Anyway: how could you eat my pig?” Mario’s voice held a rebellious note. “You’re not cannibals. And you all might as well be related to it because you’ve been eating the same food.”

Henry considered this remark in silence then the First Temple Preacher shrugged his shoulders and tried again.

“For you, Mario, we’d all buy tickets. Then you could roast the porker and we’d all come to the party. No mescal, mind. I don’t want any of my people tempted into the evils of alcohol, you know.”

“But you drink alcohol. I saw you with an open bottle of wine the other night.”

“Well, what do you know? You saw me drinking wine, did you?”

Mario nodded his assent.

“You know what, Mario, that must have been Saturday night,” he hummed and hawed for a second. “You know, that’s right; I remember now. I was testing the altar wine. The Prophet’s blood flows thicker than water, my friend, as you well know. And remember, the first miracle that The Prophet performed turned water into wine. But the members of my Temple don’t drink wine anymore, not outside church, not now that we know it’s the Good Prophet’s blood, you know.”

“You eat blood pudding. You eat pig’s blood,” Mario flexed the muscles on his forearm. “Anyway, I can slaughter my pig but I couldn’t eat her. I feed her every day. For me, she’s like one of my children,” Mario took a tissue from his pocket and dabbed at the corner of his eye

“Wait a second, Mario,” Tim forced himself to sound positive. “Cheer up, Mario. You’re selling the pig in a good cause.”

“I don’t know about that,” Henry resembled a dog with a bone and he wouldn’t let go. “After feeding it every day, he sells it to be slaughtered. Then it’s turned into bacon and sausages and blood pudding, to be consumed by strangers. I heard tell once of a man who was sold to strangers for 30 pieces of silver. When you get your 300 pieces of silver, Mario, or whatever you get, I hope you won’t hang yourself from a tree.”

Mario’s face turned very red. He wiped his eyes in his tissue, took Tim’s bag of edible garbage and shuffled away with the two bags in his hand.

“Henry,” Tim stretched his hands out, palms up, towards the American as he spoke. “That wasn’t a nice thing to say. I think you’ve upset him.”

“I wonder if he kisses the pig on the cheek before he turns it in?” Henry stood there scratching his head with one hand

“Isn’t there something about charity in your church along the lines of ‘faith, hope, and charity, and the greatest of these is charity?’”

“You know, now I think about it, there is. And now I’m going to be very charitable to you. I know how much you’ve been suffering, don’t ask me how; and I know how lonely you are; again, don’t ask. Why don’t you become a Templar and join the Temple? You’ll be in on the bottom floor and there’s plenty of money to make. And this should get you interested: we’ve been signing up some great looking women. I know for a fact Marisa would like to see you there,” Henry gave Tim a wink and a nudge, but Tim didn’t wink back.

“She’s a fine woman, Henry, and one day she’ll make somebody very happy; but today’s not the day and I’m not sure that I’m the man she deserves.”

“Look: we can double everything up. Think about it: we buy Mario’s porker and then we barbecue it; and then we celebrate your joining the Temple with Marisa, all on the same day. All your friends, all Marisa’s friends, the people from the compound, Mario’s friends, the Templars: we’ll make a fortune. Tell you what: marry her and become Templars together and you can have half the profits from the barbecue as a wedding gift. What do you think of that?”

“And what, pray, does Marisa say about all this?”

“I haven’t asked her yet; but I reckon she’s up for it. She’s as ripe as a plum and boy, you do need a woman; believe me, I can tell.”

“Henry, if I need a woman, which I don’t, I am quite capable of finding one for myself, thank you. I don’t need a marriage broker.”

“That’s not what Mario thinks; and for once I agree with him.”

“Henry, please tell Mario to leave well alone. And as for you … and your charitable offer … well … I must admit … you have left me speechless with your, ahem, charity and, uh, generosity.”

“Don’t thank me now,” Henry rested his hand on Tim’s shoulder. “I’m just getting started, you know. You haven’t seen anything yet,” he winked at Tim again. “Trust me. But don’t trust them, any of them. Mark my words, they’ll betray you. And then you’ll be in trouble.”

He started to whistle and walked towards his apartment. Tim shuddered as he put words to the tune: “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.”