Yesterday

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Commentary:

Ocho Venado / Eight Deer is a legendary person who is described in the pre-Columbian Miztec códice known as the Zouche-Nuttall codex. He lived from 1063 to 1115, the date of the codex. The códice describes his life and conquests. I brought a facsimile copy of this códice home in 1995 and my beloved started reading it on Boxing Day. It took her two days to decipher the first page. One day for the second page and, by my birthday, she had read the whole thing. She inspired my love of the codices and they figure largely in my writings from that time, especially The Oaxacan Trilogy (Sun and Moon, Obsidian’s Edge, and Obsidian 22, the first two available on Amazon).

Eight Deer appears frequently in my poetry, partly because we have a family of deer, often as many as eight (!) that walk through our garden in Island View. The joining of the Canadian natural world with the Oaxacan historical and mythical world brings me great joy and it is wonderful to weave stories and poems where the two worlds mingle and become one. Hence the dream world of the prose poem that figures above. Chocolate beans, incidentally, were one of the cash currencies used in Oaxaca at the time of the arrival of Cortés and the Spanish. Oaxacan chocolate (xocotl) is something wonderful.

 

Waste Knot

 

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Waste Knot
(6th Century BC)

finger-nails crack
red sealing wax
liberating gathering
knotted parcel string

broken finger nails
hard scarlet chips
blood flash-frozen
beaded on blade

underground
clawing for clues
damp walled
this cave-walk
distant the exit
thread leading out

reef knots slip knots
sheep-shanks bowlines
bowlines-on-the-bight
tight he tied them
used them
to measure distance
to distance him from doom

behind him
the bull head
boisterous
bellowing him on

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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Sun

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Sun

The sun has decided to take a vacation.
He’s left us and gone down to Mexico
for a week or two. Right now I think
he’s in the main square in Oaxaca.

He’s wearing a flashy, floral shirt
and a panama hat and he’s sunning
himself in El Jardin as he sits in the shade
and sips his ice-cold Oaxacan beer.

This evening he will go to Monte Alban
to see himself set. Tomorrow, bright
and early, he’ll pop over the mountains
to Puerto Escondido where he’ll gild
sand castles and play games on the beach.

I know where he is, because he sent me
a postcard saying “Having a great time.
Wish you were here.” I miss him so much.
I really do hope he’ll come home soon.

Comment: Today is my father’s birthday. He would have been 107 years old. I was thinking of him this morning, how he loved the sunshine, the sea, and his glass of cold beer. He also liked to travel. I don’t think he ever went to Mexico, but he would have loved Oaxaca and the beaches at Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. He would have appreciated the old temple compound and palaces at Monte Alban.  I thought of calling this poem, this ‘very raw’ poem, Sun & Son, but it’s all about him really, the Sun as warmth and protector and father, and the Son as missing the Sun.

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 8

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Sun and Moon 8

draped across night’s blackboard
stars and constellations all erased

my black angel bruised by the dark
the world’s feathered wonder reduced to shadow and ash

what dreams are these?

feathers against night’s window
an angel of darkness descending a steep stairway
tumbling through the night

who’s dreams are these?

 

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