Water

Water: such a precious commodity, and more than a commodity, the very substance of life. Without it, we shrivel and die. Vegetation struggles to survive, the desert shifts its boundaries outwards, and a high tide of sand rises to engulf the cultivated land.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the Atoyac, the Green River, often runs dry. When it does, women kneel on the sand and pebbles and dig little holes into which the water seeps. They wait for the holes to fill and use little cups to pour that water into their buckets. These water holes are also used to wash their clothes and they hang them out on the riverbank bushes to dry beneath a burning sun.

Twice I have been in Oaxaca when the rains have not arrived. I have seen the reservoirs sink lower and lower as the sun laps up the precious liquid and no rain falls. Oaxaca, with or without rain, is a land of dry toilets, chemical toilets, chemicals to put in the tap water when you wash and peel fruit and vegetables. You drink only bottled water. It is sold to the households in forty litre bottles and hawked round the street by boys on tricycles who cry out their wares.

In Oaxaca, almost every house has its own supply of water. The flat roof, azotea, catches the rain when it falls and channels it into large internal cisternas that trap the water and keep it cool.  Water to waste is a luxury that few can afford and most water is recycled when possible in one way or another.

The rules are strict: drink nothing direct from the tap; do not clean your teeth in tap water;  beware of ice cream and ice cubes; drink only water delivered from trusted hands. In addition: eat food only from establishments with running water and a reputation for safety. Avoid street vendors, especially the little ladies in the street who cook over open fires and and change their babies’ nappies only to return to their cooking with unwashed hands … There are so many things you learn if you want to be safe and streetwise. Above all, close your nose to the delights of those wonderful street side cooking smells.

Peragua

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:
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.

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.

Poema de Amor

Poema de Amor / Love Poem
Complete version

Mitla is a sacred burial place in the Oaxaca Valley. The caves in the hills above the town are said to lead directly to an underworld from which demons and devils emerge at night and by means of which humans can communicate with the souls of the dead. Mitla, in fact, is often called the city of the dead. Legend has it that if you embrace  a certain magic column in the Palace at Mitla, the time left for you to live can be measured by the distance between your fingers as they reach round the pillar and almost touch. The pillar, they say, grows and shrinks according to the length of the seeker’s life. Petrus,  a rock, in Latin, evolves into piedra, a rock or stone in Spanish: upon this rock will I build my church.

1
We walk on tiptoe round the garden
peeling free the sunlight cloud by cloud

sometimes the heart is a sacrifice of feathers
bound with blood to an ornate altar

petrus
this rock cold against my chest
piedra
centuries of glyphs alive in your face

if our arms meet round these all too human columns
what will become of us?

2
beneath your skin the woad lies as blue as this evening sky
yellow light bends low in the fields below us
each darkened pool a warrior fallen beneath the scythe

the moon paints a delicate circle
its great round open eye stands out
above the rooftops
tonight it bears an eye lid carved from  cloud

our teeth are diadems of whiteness
we tie shadows to our heels
and dance in triumph through street and square

3
daylight bends itself round rock and turns into shadow
we flourish in blocks of fire

dreaming new selves from roots and branches
we clasp each resurrection with greedy fingers
will the moon rise again tonight and will we watch?

dark angel bodies with butterfly wings
our shadows have eloped together

we can see them sitting side by side
bumping knees at a table in the zócalo

4
church bells gild the barrio‘s rooftops
our fingers reach to the skies and hold back light
we draw shadow blinds to shut out the day
night fills us with stars and silhouettes

we dream ourselves together in a silent movie
closed flesh woven from cobwebs
lies open to a tongue-slash of madness

the neighbor’s dog wakes up on the azotea
he barks bright colors as dawn declares day
and windows and balconies welcome the sun

can anyone see the dew-fresh flowers
growing from our tangled limbs?

your fingers sew a padlock on my lips
“Listen to the crackle of the rising sun!”

Click on this link to hear Roger reading on Anchor.
Poema de Amor

Love Song

Poema de Amor (3 & 4)

3

daylight bends itself round rock and turns into shadow

we flourish in blocks of fire

dreaming new selves from roots and branches

we clasp each resurrection with greedy fingers

will we watch the moon again tonight?

dark angel bodies with butterfly wings

our shadows have eloped together

we can see them sitting side by side

bumping each other’s knees at a table in the zócalo

4

church bells gild the barrio’s rooftops

our fingers reach to the skies and hold back light

we draw blinds to shut out the day and shadows fill us

we dream ourselves together in a silent movie

closed flesh woven from cobwebs

waiting to be opened by a slash of the tongue

the neighbour’s dog watches from the azotea

he barks bright colours as dawn opens doorways on the street

can he see the flowers growing from our tangled limbs?

your fingers sew a padlock on my lips

“Listen to the crackle of the rising sun!”

Click here for Roger’s reading on Anchor.
Poema de Amor

Spiders

Spiders

The spider plant
spins out web after web,
all knotted together,
then ejected
from the central nest.

One landed on my floor
the other afternoon
with an enormous clunk.
A huge new set of offspring
and roots ejected and sent
on a voyage of discovery
to find a new home.

Mala madre / bad mother.
Oaxacans have a curious way
of naming their plants.
I lived in an apartment
above a courtyard
filled with malas madres.

There was also
A Bird of Paradise
that nested in the same tree,
a banana plant, in flower,
a huge hibiscus,
and such a variety
of prize poinsettias
that I could never get
the varieties straight:
red, white, cream, single,
clotted, and double-crowned.

In the powder room,
downstairs, our hibiscus
is about to break
into winter blooms.

It is covered in spider mites.
Every day, I hunt them down,
squishing them whenever I can.

My daughter calls me cruel
and a padre malo.

I say ‘no: it’s them
or the hibiscus.
You can’t have both.’

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Spiders


My Father in Oaxaca

My Father in Oaxaca

I saw my father this evening. 
I walked through the zócalo,
opened the main cathedral doors,
looked up, and there he stood,
motionless. 

Light shone through stained glass
and gifted him a halo,
as if he were some long dead
saint come back to visit me. 

We stared at each other.
The hairs on my neck
stood on end.

My hands shook. 
When I forced my mouth open,
words stuck in my throat. 

He wore his best grey suit
over a light blue shirt
and a dark blue,
hand woven tie: 
the outfit in which
I had buried him.

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
My Father in Oaxaca

Rain Stick Magic

Nunca llueve en los bares /
it never rains in the bars.

Sympathetic Magic
aka
Rain Stick Magic

“Rain, we need rain.”
The bruja whirls her rain stick.
Rain drops patter one by one,
then fall faster and faster
until her bamboo sky fills
with the sound of rushing water.

An autumnal whirl of sun-dried cactus
beats against its wooden prison walls.
Heavenwards, zopilotes float
beneath gathering clouds.
Rain falls in a wisdom of pearls
cast now before us.

Scales fall from my eyes.
They land on the marimbas,
dry beneath the zocalo‘s arches
where wild music sounds
its half-tame rhythms,
sympathetic music released,
like this rainstorm,
by the musician’s magic hands.

Comment: Bruja: witch, witch doctor; Oro de Oaxaca: mescal, the good stuff; Zopilote: Trickster, the turkey vulture who steals fire from the gods, omnipresent in Oaxaca; Marimbas: a tuned set of bamboo instruments. But you knew all that!

Click on this link to hear Roger’s reading.
Rain!

Night and Day Dreams

Winking Night Bump

Night and Day Dreams

Someone stole the nose from a sacred statue.
He placed it on his face and I watch it
as it crosses the central square.

A moving shadow: zopilote flies high above.
I talked to him once on a midnight bus.
He begged me to fold his wings
and let him sleep forever.

The balloon lady sells tins of watery soap.
Children, newly released from school,
fill my days with enchantments.
They blow soap bubbles, tiny globes,
circular rainbows, born from a magic ring.

The voices in my head slip slowly into silence.
Some nights I think they have no need of me,
these dreams that arrive in the early hours
and knock at my window.

When morning comes, I watch them fade
and then I know they cannot live without me.
When I am gone, they will go too.

Click on this link for the original poem.

https://wordpress.com/post/rogermoorepoet.com/23643

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Night and Day Dreams

Water

Water

Water: does it remember when the earth was without form
and darkness lay upon the face of the deep?

Water gathered into one place and the firmament appeared.
Then light drifted apart from darkness and with light
came The Word, more words, and then the world …

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

Here, in Oaxaca, the valley’s parched throat
longs for water, born free, yet everywhere imprisoned.
It languishes in bottles, tins, jars, and frozen cubes,
its captive essence staring out with grief filled eyes.

A young boy on a tricycle pedals past my apartment.
He carries a dozen prison cells, each with forty captives,
forty fresh clean bottles of warm water.
“¡Peragua!” he call out to me. “¡Super Agua!”
he holds out his hand and asks me to pay
a handsome ransom to set some of these captives 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 slip from your hand and seek sanctuary in dust and sand.

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.

A Golden Oldie
Click on the link below for the earlier version.
https://rogermoorepoet.com/2016/04/28/water/

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Water


Alebrijes

Alebrijes

 Are they half-grasped dreams
that wake, wide eyed, to a new day’s sun?

Or are they alive and thriving
when they fall from the tree?

Does the carver fish their color and shape
from his own interior sea,
or does he watch and wait for the spirit
to emerge from its wooden cocoon
to be reborn in a fiery block of color?

Daybreak:
in a secluded corner of my waking mind,
my neighbor’s dog greets the dawn with sparks
of bright colors born from his bark.

My waking dream: dark angels with butterfly bodies,
their inverted wings spread over my head to keep me warm.
In the town square, the local artist plucks dreams
from my head and paints them on carved wood.

A Golden Oldie
Click on this link for early version.
https://rogermoorepoet.com/2016/04/27/alebrijes/

Click on this link for Roger’s reading.
Alebrijes

Brother Donkey

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

1

Brother Donkey

A statue of St. Francis stands in the corner
of the roof garden. He holds out his hands
for Plaster of Paris birds to settle upon them.

St. Francis wears a brown, sack-cloth cassock
bound at the waist by a knotted, white cord.
Living birds would come to him, if he called,
but he is silent. He knows the birds by their names,
not the Latin or Spanish names, nor their names
in Mixtec or Nahuatl. He knows their true names,
their own ineffable names that grace each of them
and brightens their songs of colored glory.

Brother Sun, by day, and Sister Moon, by night,
bless him with their soft-feathered gifts of light.
Alas, he is bound to this earth by Brother Donkey,
the flesh and blood body he once wore and now
wears in effigy. Of the earth, earthy, his thoughts
are bent on beating this sackcloth body down
and raising his mind in birdsong that will reach up,
higher and higher until it achieves his Kingdom Come.

In front of him, the Bird of Paradise offers him
that which he most desires, a return to earth
in avian form, winged like a miniature angel
armed with a golden harp and an aura of song.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Brother Donkey