People of the Mist 16

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9:20 AM

Tim walked up the street towards the centre of town, moving slowly, from window to shop window, still hesitant to go to the baths. A craft shop packed with bric-à-brac and old curiosities caught his attention. The shop held an irresistible sense of mystery and he tried to look in but couldn’t see much through the dust and cobwebs. He opened the door and copper goat bells jangled. An old man, dressed in an artist’s smock, emerged from a room behind the counter.

“Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“I’m not sure. May I look around?”

“Of course you may.”

The old man’s eyes followed Tim as he walked from shelf to shelf and examined the dusty objects. A figure of the Spanish knight, Don Quixote, built from scrap metal sat on the reinforced toe of a workman’s boot. Tim marveled at the artist’s innovative use of recycled materials: valves soldered together with nuts and bolts and springs.

“Did you make this?”

The artisan nodded and smile. Tim took the medallion out of his shirt where he had hidden it next to his skin and showed it to the shop keeper.

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?”

The artisan’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head.

“I’m looking for the other half. Could you make one for me?”

“Impossible.”

“Why?” Tim offered it to him for closer inspection, but the artisan threw up his hands and backed away.

“I don’t need to look closer. I can’t help you.”

“I need to repair the medallion.”

“I can do nothing for you.”

“Then what do you suggest?”

“Go to El Brujo. He’s the only one who can help you.”

Door bells jangled and the shop door opened.

“Speak of the devil ….” the artisan looked relieved. “It’s the man himself.”

“My ears were burning,” El Brujo‘s eyes held a mischievous twinkle.

“Here he is,” the artisan turned to Tim. “You can ask him yourself now.”

“Ask me what?” El Brujo stared at Tim who turned red in the face as he pushed the medallion back under his shirt.

“It’s nothing,” Tim readjusted the buttons.

“You won’t find it here.”

“Find what?”

“The other half of your medallion; have patience, my friend. It knows that you are searching for it. It will be drawn to you, never fear. The baths are across the road, incidentally. Alonso told me you might go there this morning. I’ll go with you.”

“But I thought you were going to Yalalag; I saw you on the bus this morning. You spoke to me.”

“Indeed I was and indeed I did. But I got off the bus, didn’t I? And you didn’t understand me when I spoke to you, did you? So I’m here, now; where I’m needed. Come along. Let’s go.”

He nodded to the artisan.

Adiós, Pepito. Thanks for calling me. By the way, have you thought about that offer I made you?”

“I have indeed.”

“And your answer?”

“I think you know what I will say.”

“I do. But you must make up your mind quickly. The circle is broken and we must rebuild it.”

“When I am needed, I will be there.”

“You will be needed tonight.”

“Then I’ll be there.”

El Brujo and Tim exited the shop together, crossed the street, and walked towards the baths …

People of the Mist 15

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9:00 AM

Back in the apartment, Tim opened the bottle of mescal and poured a large shot into a glass. He gulped it down and the mescal burned as it rushed down his throat and into his gut. It relaxed him and he felt less haunted. Its swift invasion of his brain left him stunned for a moment and he sat down at the table, picked up his medallion and held it in his hands.

…  papier-mâché figures sway in the square … a cacophony of traditional music … massed village bands … the rhythm of rising rockets thumping into the air … dancing trees flap miniature limbs in time to the music … eyes flash from the trees’ waistbands … dryads and satyrs cavort carved and painted …  liquid motes of fiery tunes float in the air … music visible and almost tactile for a moment or two … stamping feet … stilt dancers … the music stops … young children … boys and girls … emerging from the trees … live dryads bark-skinned brown-eyed … a nymph walks over eyes open in invitation …

Tim’s mind clicked back into gear. Of course, that’s where he had seen the girl from the paper kiosk: she had been dancing in a papier-mâché tree, in the zócalo, and when the music stopped,  she invited him to join her in her tree.

            Colibrí, the tiny bird with the warrior’s soul, whirrs its wings … twin windmills, sun-dog ear-rings, draw circles round a suddenly-clouded sun … a flock of tiny feathered angels as bright as postage stamps sit in the trees in the courtyard to raise their voices in their afterlife of praise …

Tim checked his watch: if he wanted to visit the baths, it was time to get going. He got up from the table, slipped his medallion around his neck, walked out of his apartment and closed the door behind him.

People of the Mist 13

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8:30 AM

Tim felt the day’s heat starting to build as he walked to the newspaper kiosk. Cloud castles rose in the air and the sun’s kiln fired the clouds with warmth and color. On the sidewalk, the shadows grew stronger and a knife-edge, like a military crease, sliced a razor-sharp junction between light and dark, sun and shade. An occasional face smiled at Tim with its white streak of lightning flashing across the nut brown skin.

Musicians and jugglers lurched towards the central square to earn their daily bread and a circle of admirers surrounded a man who ate fire for breakfast, breathing it out in great gouts of flame. The music grew louder as Tim approached a musician who stood in the shade playing a danse macabre on sun-polished marimbas. Beside him, a heart of fire burned in an iron barrel and a young woman, her baby wrapped in a hand-woven rebozo slipped around one shoulder, prepared quesadillas and offered them for sale. The mother sniffed with suspicion when her baby wailed. She moved away from the fire, unwrapped the baby’s soiled nappy, wiped her child with a cloth, put on a new nappy, and threw the old one into a garbage can where the flies pounced upon it. Then, hands unwashed, she returned to her cooking.

An old half-ton, returning from the market to its home village, chugged by emitting a cloud of black smoke. People clung to the outside of this vehicle waving their hands and grinning at their friends. In the back of the battered pick-up chickens roosted on an old bed stead while a young man, astride a shining porcelain toiled bowl, strummed his guitar and sang to entertain the passengers. The intrepid travelers hung on for grim life as the truck rattled its way down the street. It almost ran Tim down as it clattered, half on, half off, the sidewalk, avoiding this and that, the donkey in the road, the old woman crossing, the policeman with his whistle who directed traffic. Tim jumped out of the way. El Brujo, with one arm around the old man he had rescued, sat in the front seat, next to the driver. The witch doctor punched the driver on the arm, ordered him to stop, put his head out of the truck window, and called to Tim.

“You have forgotten how to walk in the woods. You have forgotten how the dead leaf separates from the tree and tumbles earthward in its longing to be free.”

“I don’t understand you,” Tim said. “You speak in riddles.”

“Then here’s a riddle you must solve,” El Brujo scowled at Tim. “You must look for a young girl who will wrap your heart in laughter. She will feed you milk and honey. Your heart will grow roots and begin to flower. When the Bird of Paradise calls your name, your heart will grow wings and fly. A sunbeam on its plumage will fill you with glory. Your tears will disperse and turn into feathers; sun people will chase you through the clouds and crown your heart with a rainbow crown.”

Amid a cacophony of horns and hoots, bystanders bowed and raised their hats as they recognized El Brujo. The witch doctor included them all in a generous wave and a shouted ¡Adiós!, then punched the driver of the guajalotero in the arm. The engine revved and the old truck rumbled away, shooting a cloud of filthy black smoke out of its exhaust, and backfiring with a vicious last fart as it turned the corner and vanished out of sight.

Tim stood at the roadside for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, and went to the newspaper stand where a young girl offered him a paper. He thanked her, counted out the change, and exchanged the handful of coins for the piece of newsprint. As Tim gave her the money, their fingers touched and sparks flew at the point where his skin met hers. She jumped back and Tim stared at her. He was sure he’d never seen her before.

“I’m so sorry,” Tim said. “That was quite a shock.”

The paper-seller had dark brown eyes, almost black, with the enormous depths so typical of the native born.

El Brujo spoke to you?”

“He’s mad, raving mad,” Tim told her.

“Don’t say that,” she said. “He’s a good man and a poet. They say he has visions and can predict the future as well as read the past.”

“You mean he’s a fortune-teller?”

“No, not a fortune-teller, not in the sense I think you mean. He told me this morning you might be passing this way about now. I came to see if he was right,” she gave Tim the shyest of smiles and cast her eyes down.

“Nonsense,” Tim waved the paper and brushed away any trace of magic that might be lingering in the air. “You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?”

“No,” she kept her eyes down. “He said you were an unbeliever and would need much convincing.”

“Well, thank you for the paper anyway. It was a pleasure talking to you.” Tim crossed the road and hurried away from the paper stand.

“Well?” said the girl’s uncle, emerging from the inside of the kiosk where he had been listening to the exchange. “Is he the one?”

“I don’t know,” the girl’s eyes clouded over. “He might be. I’m not sure. I didn’t sense anything special about him and I couldn’t sense any medallion. But we’ll soon find out,” she put her hand to her chest. Her eyes lost their focus as she gazed into a distance of time and space.

“Could you get close to him?” the man asked.

“I doubt it,” she replied. “He’s not meant for me.”

People of the Mist 8

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7:35 AM

… the sound of dry cactus trickling through a rain stick imitating rain  as it falls from the clouds to strike the forest leaves … rain … steady and  heavy … from purple clouds … water fills the scorpion’s underground nest … Alacrán emerges and  knocks at the dreamer’s door … go away, says the dreamer … tail in air Alacrán minces down the balcony and onto the staircase … now his carcase dries on a stone in the sun … when the rain ends, black ants emerge to pick at Alacrán’s drowned body … they carry him in bite size chunks … up the thin crack in the apartment wall … back to their nests … life goes on … many are called … many are chosen to be victims or assassins … who knows who will be chosen … and for which role …

“Heal yourself,” cried the sánate bird, drawing his knife blade over the sun-warmed stone outside Tim’s window. The trees in the courtyard filled up with sparks of colour as their leaves lapped at his balcony. A butterfly, yellow and black, shook delicate wings, and dangled, at the end of his floral string. Soon the bird of paradise would close its eyes and go back to sleep. High in the sky, strung out like a line of washing in the early morning air, the temples of Monte Albán basked beneath the sun as they dreamed of their former glory. Cloud shadows walked across Tim’s wall. Tourists on an endless train from there to here to nowhere in particular, white clouds stared at Tim from a pastel sky.

Tim loved the sparrows. If he left the apartment door open, they would cease their squabbling and fly down to his balcony from the red-tiled roof of his neighbour’s house. Fearless, they would step through the opening to see if he would throw them some crumbs from his table. Sometimes, they would fly right in, perch next to him on the table, and pierce him with their inscrutable gaze.

Ah, would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as these sparrows see us, Tim used to think, for sparrows dwell among the blessed and it is written that not a single one shall fall

The sánate kept winding up the day with the whistle of his call and dogs barked on the azoteas and in the streets. A warm wind walked through the open door, ruffled Tim’s hair, and climbed out through the kitchen window with a last wave of the palm leaves. This was now his life: to sit here before an open book while black ants crawled their predatory letters across the page and tulips and carnations performed a slow dance in time with the sun’s rotation. Tropical fruit sulked in a basket on the table. The great wheel of the sun had risen over the rooftops and sparrows hopped, dogs barked, and the sánate dragged once more the long thin knife of his tinker’s cry across the sharpener’s grindstone as a rooster crowed his thick rich morning cocoa rico.

the breakfast orange lies racked on the plate …  juices flow like blood … a blood orange … rising like the sun from night’s mist … and now the orange … lifeless … a pale yellow robe spent and exhausted … fading in the sunlight … the wasted disc of a worn-out decadent moon … a lantern with its wasted light cast across a tabloid sky … a still life this orange … its life blood a sacrifice … thick rich golden liquid … as fierce and sweet as sunshine on a branch … 

Tim blinked, went into the kitchen, and looked for the mescal, but it had all gone. The absence of the yellow worm’s slithering crunch beneath his teeth was the ultimate sacrifice. He stood in the doorway, shivered in the sunshine, and mourned one more among his many losses.

 

People of the Mist 6

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7:15 AM

Tim turned the corner away from the church and on the next street a bitter sweet smell assaulted his nostrils. An old man stood vomiting into the gutter. Behind him, holding handkerchiefs to their faces with one hand and their white night-sticks with the other, two policemen prodded the wretch, pushing him onwards, out towards the city’s edge. A small crowd buzzed around him like a cloud of flies. He lurched forward and the policemen prodded him on again. He lurched forward, a stubborn donkey provoked by a stick. The people in the street parted like a bow wave from the ship-shock of his passing.

Stunned and vomiting, sick to the core, half-blind, stinking of the worst kind of cheap mescal, he lugged himself along his personal Via Crucis, step by painful step. When he fell, the policewomen closed in, kicking and tugging him back to his feet.

… quivering nostrils … the throat blazing with its desire for lemon and lime … the jag of the salt …  the chili’s burning flame … the healing kiss of the mescal …the harsh dried husk of the twisting worm … like grit between the teeth …

The old man stood there, nailed to the cross of the sidewalk, his arms hung out on the wind to dry. A scarecrow’s clothing would be cleaner than his clothes. A Guy Fawkes figure, rags and tatters leaked out from his flimsy frame.

… the sun hangs its tail-less kite in the sky … the moon dreams her way through the heavens … an old man washes his own brain … cleanses it of myth and memory … tries to drown himself in a dark river of tears … a sad hand rises from the waves to wave farewell … in the depths of the mescal a yellow worm glides like a shark to the bottom of the bottle …

The old man seemed to walk through shallow water with the millstone of the morning after tied round his neck, a personal millstone, made to measure and grinding exceeding small. If the wearer were to wander into deep water, then it would weigh him down and he would drown.

The street people taunted him, threatened to stand him in the stocks, to strip him down to his basic elements, the heart that beats, the lungs that breathe, the white flat rib-bones that can be scarred, like paper, with the wonder of words. They threatened to stretch him on an ancient altar. They shouted that his torso’s closed flesh was ripe for the sacrificial blade, his body bent backwards, his mind dreaming of the knife’s vertical descent and horizontal slash. People cheered as the policeman’s stick with a thunderous thump flashed white lightning and pierced the mist that lay thick on the vagrant’s mind.

… one quick swallow … then another … twin promises of summer’s sun and of hope’s renewal … each thimbleful of this mouth-burning treasure, drawing warmth into the gut forcing a tear drop from the eye … bringing oblivion …  

The old man soiled the newborn day by vomiting again and drenching the street in a paper bag reality of soiled clothes and running liquid. The street people closed in, creating a moving jail and the old man shivered with laughter and spread out his arms. His round wide eyes were those of an owl about to fly into the cockcrow sun face. Then the crowd drew too close and something snapped: he roared at the stabbing fingers and pissed at the people through the bars of his cage. A beam of sunlight picked him out and, for a moment, his eyes met Tim’s. They gazed into each other’s souls and a voice rang like a bell within Tim’s head: there too, but for the gift of the gods, go you.

The policemen again stepped towards the old man but a strong, dark figure appeared between the police and their victim.

Basta, enough,” El Brujo raised his hand and the officers backed away. “I will look after him.”

El Brujo turned to the old man, wrapped his arms around him, and hugged him tight.

“You must forgive them, brother,” he spoke in a loud voice so the crowd might hear him. “They know not what they do.”

“Come, come home with me,” El Brujo waved the crowd to one side and put his arm around the old man’s shoulder. “I will help you find what you seek.”

The crowd sighed and started to break up. El Brujo and the old man walked arm in arm down the street. The police officers followed them for a step or two but the crowd gathered in behind the pair and ahead of the police, blocking their way. With a shrug of their shoulders, the uniformed officers turned back. A voice in the crowd cried out:

“¡Viva El Brujo! Make way for our saint.”

… the medallion  awoke … it ticked back into life … warm around the neck of the wearer … it moved … a pendulum swaying … side to side … white lightning … a hammer blow falling … somewhere … falling … and the ground swelling up to shake itself out … an old man … an old dog with fleas … shaking …

Well aware of the warmth he carried against his chest Tim turned away from the street scene and walked towards the apartment he now called home.

People of the Mist 4

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People of the Mist
6:30 AM

The wooden yoke of the solitary bell hanging in the tower of the church of St. James had broken long ago. The bell neither swung nor tolled when the priest pulled the rope. Every day, before morning mass, one of the altar boys climbed the tower steps, knelt beside the bell and beat it with a hammer. The bell rang out with sharp sounds that echoed the cry of a struck anvil in a hot forge where the farrier tends the horse’s hoofs. Twenty-four times the hammer struck the bell as the acolyte called the parishioners and encouraged them to come to early morning mass.

Tim visited the church from time to time, more out of curiosity than anything else. This morning, however, a sudden urge to visit washed over him. He knew that if he hurried he would get there on time, so he dressed and lumbered down to the courtyard.

Buenos días, señor,” Mario, the handyman, brush in hand, greeted him with the sunshine of a gold tooth winking among white teeth.

Buenos días, Mario.”

Señor, you’re up early. You must be going to mass. Please don’t forget it’s a pig day today.”

“I won’t forget,” Tim returned Mario’s smile and slipped out of the front gates and into the street.

Tim walked with care towards the church of St. James.  He looked down at the ground and tried to avoid the tree roots that pushed up between the paving stones on the sidewalk. The stones all lay at awkward angles and the roots crept upwards through the cracks, twisting towards the sun.

… thin clasping fingers … trying to trip the unwary … to pull them to the ground … to tug them into the darkness as they fall between the cracks in the paving stones … 

Outside the church door, two young people squatted on the ground in front of the local witchdoctor, El Brujo. The young man, eyes closed, threaded a cactus thorn through his lower lip. Dark blood oozed and, as it fell, El Brujo caught it in a little earthenware bowl. Beside him the young girl carried a flower-filled basket on her head. The aroma of the incense El Brujo burned on his fire tickled Tim’s nostrils.

… light are the flowers … heavy cruel stones lie beneath them and weigh the basket down … twelve girls in floral dresses stand outside the church of the Soledad… they pick up their baskets … place them on their heads … hand on hip one arm swinging free they wait for the high priest to bless them … then they start their pilgrimage … twelve girls … twelve churches … each will leave a floral tribute in a church … they will continue to the cathedral where each petitioner will frame a question as she waits for the blessing … and her lips will whisper the desired prayer  …  and perhaps it will be answered … but only if the young man sheds enough blood, if the young girl carries a heavy enough weight for long enough …

El Brujo looked at Tim and snapped his fingers. Tim shook his head as he broke away from the images that danced in his head. El Brujo closed his eyes and hummed a rhythmic chant. He was about to enter a trance. Tim shrugged his shoulders, walked past the group, and stopped at the church door, hesitant. Then he took a deep breath and tugged at the oaken door.

Darkness ruled inside the church and would do so until the sun’s first rays awoke the altar’s sleeping colors. Tim had missed the start of the service. He bowed his head, looked towards the altar, genuflected, made the sign of the cross, and knelt at the back of the church. He looked at the people in front of him as they concentrated on the gestures of the priest. He also searched for the man who resembled his father, but there was no sign of him.

The early morning dream world encouraged meditation. Tim watched and dreamed as the shadows crept across the walls. A single beam of sunshine descended and the sharp blade of its heliocentric sword shattered the chapel’s onyx altar into a thousand tiny chips of stained light. A young widow knelt at the altar rail. As the piercing light struck the altar, she turned and her face was a pallid lily truncated by the sun’s pearly light. The sun’s rays placed a halo upon her head. She stood up with her hand before her face as if she were blind then lurched towards the statue of St. James, the patron Saint of this church, of the Conquistadores, and of Spain. The morning service continued as she prayed before his statue.

… St. James the Moor-Slayer … he stands on the severed heads of the Moors he has killed … behind him hands tied behind their backs dusky skinned warriors march away into slavery … the widowed supplicant kneels … her eyes are level with those of the severed heads … she stares eyeball to eyeball at a decapitated Moor … visions of the Gate of Glory in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain … pilgrim after  pilgrim lays hands upon the Tree of Jesse and forces grasping fingers into the stone … generations of pilgrim palms burrowing their way into the granite …  the supplicant’s flesh clutches the statue’s stone hand … human veins clasp cold marble in search of comfort and an oh-so-elusive warmth …

 


 

People of the Mist 3

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People of the Mist
6:15 AM

            The bitter taste of bile and vomit brought Tim face to face with to the realities of the day. He removed his soiled, sweat-soaked tee shirt and, still wearing shorts that served him as pajamas, he wandered into the kitchen and lit the gas stove. He opened the fridge. Inside, a plastic bottle of cold water, purchased from the little man in the corner shop, stared back at him. Tim poured some bottled water into an open saucepan and set it to boil.  He added two large splinters of cinnamon. When the water started to bubble, he sprinkled coffee grains on the seething liquid and waited for the grounds to settle. He brought the water back to the boil and did this two more times. When the liquid changed to the dark color he craved, he strained it through a filter into his cup. He scooped a spoonful of honey into the brew and walked across to the table where his copy of a new post-Columbian códice lay open, gazed for a moment at the colored figures in their multitude of poses, and started to read.

“Two breasts: one green, one yellow, symbolic of the hill where the church stands; the church itself bi-coloured, strong stone walls, a spire. A large red heart symbolic of the love we bear for you, our masters. Two feet walking the path of enlightenment you opened before us are accompanied by two hands pointing the way. The feet below the heart; the hands above the heart, like wings; and the heart becomes the body of the new place you have built for us. And in the heart is our sacred symbol: the Earthquake, a sign of leadership and power used only by those of Royal Stature and the Noblest Blood. Attached to the heart is the Numeral One which means Lord of the Earthquake; for you are Number One in our Hearts. Attached to the heart is a speech scroll showing felicitous words of praise; below it is the sacred earthworm, and beneath that the serpent head of wisdom and the flint knife promising strength through sacrifice.

But be wary: for our symbols are double-edged! The colors of the hill are divided, as the hill is divided, showing strife and division. The church is on top of the hill, for the symbol has conquered the people, and the people are starving, subject, and destroyed. The feet are pointing in opposite directions, for the people are stalled. They have no forward movement, nor will of their own, for they are conquered by the sword and not by love. And the hands are pointing in opposite directions; for the right hand knows not what the left hand is doing. And the hands are reversed showing anguish and distress. The sign of the heart is the sign of the disembodied heart, torn from the heaving chest of the vanquished and thrown to the dogs. The sign of the earthquake is also the sign of movement. And that movement is a bowel movement. And one movement in the middle of the sacrificed heart is the victor excreting on the vanquished and treating them with scorn and contempt. The scroll protrudes from the nether part and says that the victors are speaking words of excrement, that verbal diarrhoea issues from their lips. And the serpent has no feathers; it cannot fly. It is as a snake treacherous and bitter, crawling on the ground. The head of the serpent is two tongued and tells of treachery and of deceit. The flint is attached to a heart; it speaks of the heart that is as hard as flint, knowing no mercy. And at the end that heart will receive no mercy in its turn.”

Tim stopped reading. He put his head in his hands and wild thoughts tumbled through his brain, crazy thoughts, hallucinations fueled by the mescal of the previous night.

the rabbit in the moon wears his father’s face … it perches like a scarecrow on the dead stick of a spent rocket … and the rabbit puts out the sun and causes the moon to be formed, moon-raker, moon-maker, jack rabbit, rabbit pie in the sky … and the second sun stares down now a blinded eye, unblinking … death’s face simmers in the stew pot moon and everyone seems doomed as the white rabbit scuttles down his narrow escape tube and back into his burrow high flames flicker on zopilote’s wings and bring an end to darkness … Zopilote the Trickster, the bringer of the sun’s early morning fire … Lucifer, the morning star, the bearer of light, a new star rising among star-crossed generations red scars of tulips, casting shadows on the white-washed wall, twisting shadows, shadows dancing as they struggle to take shape … three women, dancing in the limelight, and an old man, standing there, wringing his hands, then vanishing, a soap bubble, borne away on the wind … floating to where the returning warriors play their hummingbird games around the sun, … they return from their death like all the dead, here in Oaxaca … and the people placing food and drink on altars in their homes for their dearest beloveds to return once a year … down the moonlight’s marigold path, to feast and be fêted by their families … all the dead … returned …

“All the dead …?” Tim repeated the words out loud and sat upright, wide awake. He took his pen and wrote in his journal:

Things to do today:

Shopping: Bread / Newspaper / Mescal

 He stopped writing and took a sip of his coffee. He again put pen to paper.

 But this is all nonsense: I can’t believe that I saw my father last night. It couldn’t have been him. I buried him a long time ago and a long way away. What did I see then, a living man, a man who looked like him? But he was wearing the shirt and tie in which I buried my dad, so it had to be him. And who was following El Brujo and Alonso this morning? I just don’t understand. I know they told me the mescal would get to me and give me hallucinations and strange dreams, but surely not so soon. Dreams , visions, or hallucinations: there are so many things I want to know.

The Thin Man

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The Thin Man

The thin man
looks out of his window
and watches the leaves
as they twist and fall
like they did last autumn.

Golden carpets
spread across the grass
while under the lindens
the slender hands of children
crush flowers into perfume
and interlace bright
threads into tapestries
woven with light.

Will the thin man
give up his secret?

It cannot be clutched
by the camera’s artificial eye,
by the painter’s red squirrel brush,
nor by the tail of the dog fox
held over bandaged eyes.

Cows in the thin man’s
fields are scrawny.

They once walked
wary of the thin man
with his fistful of stones,
his pointed stick,
his sharp knife
and his slant-eyed dogs
that showed off
the basket weave of their ribs
with a rash of gravelly nipples
rippling against the skin
when they ran
snapping and slashing
with ivory fangs
at the frightened cattle.

Now the thin man is dying.
His cattle graze in peace.
His spirit wants to slide
through a gap in the cactus fence
and wander celestial pastures.

“I will light a fire,”
the witch doctor says.

He begins with the glow-
worm of a match.

That small flame smolders
as he breathes life into
shavings and dry bark.

Stars reach out
with tender hands.

A new spark walks
among the constellations.

The goats on the roof
grow grey with age.

Beside them,
a dappled donkey brays
as the thin man’s spirit
sets out on its journey to the stars.

A herd of seven goats, the Pleiades
rise above the sacrificial mound.

The witch doctor’s heart
shrinks to the size of an orange pip
when he cradles the thin man’s
body in his arms.

On the horizon,
Tochtli
gnaws at the moon’s
white skull.

Murciélago

exits his cave with evening
wrapped beneath his wings.

Tezcatlipoca
holds a stone
knife in his iron hand.

The thin man
dreams of Santo Domingo
where the golden tree
bends like a rainbow,

exposing its roots
as the end draws near.

Don Nadie

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Don Nadie
walks past the Jesuit Church
where the shoe-shine boys
store their stands at night.

He walks past
the tiny seat where
the gay guys sit
and caress each other
asking the unsuspecting
for unexpected dates.

Nobody asks him
for a match,
for a drink,
for money,
for charity,
for a walk down the alley
to the cheap hotels

The Yalalag witch
doctor sees things
other men don’t see.

He stretches out his hand
and brushes the mosquito
from Don Nadie‘s nose.

“Brother,” he smiles.
“I too have lost the way.”

Don Nadie is the one
who stops the hands
on all the clocks
at midnight.

He’s the one who leaves
this place and comes to this place,
all places being one

Don Nadie thinks
he knows who he is,
but he can no longer
sense his blood in the mirror
as the razor blade draws
its thin red scratch
across the dry husks of his soul.

Don Nadie,
my lookalike, my twin,
stares back at me
from the shop window
and I gaze into his eyes

In the back of the weavers’ shop,
three witches watch us.

One spins the yarn,
one measures the cloth,
one wields
the obsidian knife,

that will one day
sever the thread of our lives:

gimiendo gemelo,
hipócrito rector.

Sun & Moon

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Sun and Moon was published on Amazon and Kindle today. This is the second (revised) edition of Sun and Moon, the first edition having been published in 2000. Although this is the second edition, I have returned to and revised the original manuscript. It is clearer, stronger, and better than the first edition. Here is the description of the book as it appears on Amazon and Kindle.

“They tore down our walls,” Mono whispered, “stone by stone. A new church they built on the land they stole from us.” These opening lines begin the verbal adventure of Sun and Moon. Written in Oaxaca, Mexico, between 1995 and 1999, the poems tell some of the tales  of the voiceless, of the conquered, of the displaced, of the survivors, of the people who eat and sleep in the streets of Oaxaca, spinning their myths and legends and recalling their oral histories and memories. Sun and Moon traces the relationships between two civilizations, the indigenous and the conquerors, from the first contacts between Europeans and the people of the Oaxaca Valley up to the modern day interactions between locals and tourists. In these pages, some of the ancient ceremonies and beliefs, as described by indigenous people, are brought back to life in vivid images and colorful metaphors, so sharp, they can be grasped between the fingers and examined by the light of the sun by day and the moon by night. The multiple voices in the poems are those of human beings who, like the author, himself an émigré, find themselves in exile, lost, abandoned, and displaced. As the final character cries out in the final poem: “You do not worship at our sacred places … you don’t know even know the meaning of my name.”