Monte Alban

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Funny things, photos. When I updated my I-Mac, and I-photo became Photo, I lost some 10,000 photos, or more. Thanks to some hard work over the weekend by one of my good friends, we re-established contact with the missing photos. Skimming through them, I found this one, my words and Clare’s  computer art. I wrote it a long time ago, sometime after 1995, when I first visited Oaxaca. This piece records a visit I made, with Hayden Leaman, another good friend and an Oaxacan savant, to Monte Alban.

Under a hot sun that weighed us down and struck us like a hammer on an anvil, we wandered around the archaeological site and met with many vendors, some of whom seemed to have genuine artefacts, while others obviously offered us fakes. I couldn’t believe how the old men first discovered and then sat in the thin lines of shade emanating from a post, an edge, or a corner, la grata sombra / the welcome shade, as they say in Spanish. This one gentleman, who told us he had walked over from Arrazola,  some six kilometres or so away, asked us for nothing, chatted with us, and proved to be a wonderful source of local information. It was a pleasure to share our water with him. He was the possessor, he assured us, of a genuine green card, and didn’t believe in illegal immigration.

The words in the picture above summarize my thoughts at the time. I asked Hayden later where he wanted to go. He looked around at the temples, the monuments, the tombs, the ball court, the observatory … “Who wants to go anywhere?” he replied. “I am happy right here.”

I visited this and other sites later with Clare. She too proved to be very adept at finding the shade and just sitting still. Look and listen carefully: you too may be able to see and feel the beauty and the silence.

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Yesterday

Ay Ay Ayeres

Digging around in the photo files that I transferred from my old computer to my Google drive, I discovered this golden oldie composed of my words and Clare’s images. What a revelation: I had completely forgotten that this group of work existed. I’ll dig them out ne by one and post them from time to time. Ayer is the Spanish for yesterday, hier in French. The title “Ay! Ay! Ayeres!” with its multiple plays All our yesterdays and its reference to the old song “Ay, ay, ay, canta no llores” draws together a series of memories, some in the past and some in the future. ‘How can we have a memory in the future?’ you ask. By recognizing a present moment, or one that lies just ahead in a future that ill become soon enough a present, as one that has already occurred in the past, thus confirming the circularity of our lives and the idea that all time is time present, one of T. S. Eliot’s recurring themes.

Ocho Venado: Eight Deer is a central figure (war leader) in the Zouche-Nuttal, a pre-Columbian Mixtec Codex. He is the war leader in the Conquests recorded in the codex (circa 1050-1100).
Quesadillas: Oaxacan tortillas filled with cheese and flores de Calabaza, gourd flowers.
Reyes Magos: the three wise men or kings who visited the Christ Child on January 6, the traditional Spanish Christmas.
Murcielago: the bat and a symbol of death in Oaxacan mythology.
Nueve Viento: Nine Wind descends from heaven to separate the sky from earth and its waters. Nine Wind at Tule meeting with Cortes is mythical not historical, though the meeting of Cortes with the Mixtec chiefs (caciques) did happen.
Apoala: The Mixtec nation was born form a cave (sometimes a tree) in Apoala, Oaxaca.
Spinning the wheels in the snow: a reference to Jean Chretien and one of his famous images.

The piece is written in a surrealist style that mixes historical fact with creative writing. The distant past is recalled (1050-1100), then the middle past (1525-1530), and finally the present appears. This mixing of time and place (Mexico and Canada) is also related to the surrealist movement. Surrealism creates a dream world in which images float and change shape within a time-space conundrum where dream is more real than reality and creates its own new meanings that are individual to each reader.

Any comments on this rediscovered piece will be warmly welcomed.

Sun and Moon 10

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Sun and Moon 10

Sun thrusts his fierce face
through night’s dark window
his voice booms out like a golden gong

“What have you done with my child?

curled and flaming his orange corona
head lucent with a coronet of radiance and fire
his eyes sweep night beneath day’s rug

New Moon pales and fades in a corner
Serpent escapes through a crack in the wall

 

Sun and Moon 9

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Sun and Moon 9

Old Woman walks within a cloister of stars
the heavens arched above her like a peacock’s tail

she chants the garland of her rosary
pearls she sheds from her cratered eyes
stringing them like counters across night’s throat

beauty she calls forth
beauty fresh and youth renewed
flushed with virgin pride
she steps into her jewelled boat
and sails across a sea of crystalline sky

she enfolds the cardinal’s wings in a cage of moonbeams
“Sing!” she whispers
she rocks a new born baby in her arms
the night is hushed with lullabies

 

Sun and Moon 7

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Sun and Moon 7

Old Woman weaves a crinoline from stars
she plucks roses from the void and turns them into haloes
nochebuena blossoms on the perfume of her breath

the cardinal’s song is a crimson voice hidden among leaves
mercurial in the moonlight
Old Woman coils her relentless cage

one by one the cardinal’s tunes are imprisoned
a butterfly impaled on a moonbeam
the last note of his song

 

Sun and Moon 6

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Sun and Moon 6

“Wake up!” says Serpent. “Knock!
I knock and the door swings open

Old Woman sits spinning at a ghostly wheel
she draws me to her with a string of starlight
I squirm on the fishhook of her eyes
when I blink I fall gutted to the ground

herringbones knit me a tangled destiny
lost people wandering in a tapestry of dreams

as I read my story in the sky around me
Moon scythes my heart into tiny slices
a fishbone slides stitches into my side

dice click
two snake eyes stare into my eyes