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1973 – 1974

on leaving

The weary earth, the weary sky
each weary creature will stop what they do
to watch me return, kiss you, embrace
holding your face, heart like a bowl
ready to be filled ready to fill.

on painting

“Painting isn’t filling in the spaces made by penciled lines premeditated, but’s existing as I touch on the canvas with my brush the woman there below hanging out bedsheets that blow among geraniums’ red explosion about her hips. In a moment do we see? Life’s happening so quickly I think I remember it, but push, smear color till I show right there hung up on the wall what is finished yet will change each time you look.”
While you talk I take off my beads to closely examine the delicate seeds blue and amazing strung on a string I bought today from an Indian. You put down your brush, touch at them too. Your fingers touch me, my fingers touch you.

in one firework over Popayan

As the Night comes walking slowly with crickets about his feet splashing them up as we would splash the current of a stream sending waves of white and crystal and the sound of splashing, Night in walking sends the sound of crickets round stones, through flowers, fields across a sleepy chicken yard into the city square, each cricket in the darkened movement of his foot, kicked, picks it up, chirrs and so on continues it one step. All music is is many being one. Night, as two hands clapped on two eyes obliterates the sun, leaves me to see in match struck flame moving sections of your face coming piece by piece out of the dark as our reflections eyeless gaze back up at us from off the river. Sky explodes and the Night goes full of fire showing in its sudden bloom you, me, the hills, the town; while higher gargoyles press their bellies, claws gazing down eyes carved and cold, the crowd about us parting unmixes its heads and shoulders scattering runs from dozens of boys in the guise of red devils who fling buckets of water or white flour from their bellies, dance before drums, las flautas, approach us on this wet and shimmering bridge. Ahora es fiesta Dia de los Negros y mañana es fiesta Dia de los Blancos. Alain, I want to kiss your gentle face before it slips again to darkness.

Cave of the Owls

The owls now gone on a nocturnal hunt we heard not seeing late this afternoon against the vast dark ceiling when we climbed and came into the cave. Such roaring wings we woke then lighting our candles we whispered, entwined fingers as feathers fell around us out of a howling darkness where our faces lifted saw them spin frightening in the suddenness, surrounding us like hooves or drums beating announcing the approach of something coming at us not yet but yet expected not said but yes communicated.
Gutted fruits lay in sweet decay, coconas and papayas blistered, dropped from claws, gored in the fall, open to be eaten, seeds left with much flesh on the wide floor where many beetles jeweled and crawling among more beetles jeweled and crawling transformed the earth to something living, made it awful walking, and the stalactites a thousand years in making with a heavy water dripping formed what seemed humans petrified who’ve looked where none may look unless to forfeit flesh, movement and miss completely pleasant death.
Sweet Monica, I soap your breasts above the tugging current as evening comes entombs us with each other. From black forms of trees black forms of owls break free against the sky and silent stars hidden and not hidden as clouds move through pink and azure of a quartered moon as quickly gone to darkness and the stifled cry as fleeing sparks die in our eyes above the cooking fire that’s now succumbed to coals where we’ve let the bananas and the yuca char uneaten; we are satisfied.

the gift

I cursed my luck. Sometimes one passed, a jungle truck ignoring my thumb stuck out in the hot and wicked air. Only lizards from the dust lifting their heads glanced back, if once, before they fled into the underbrush. When from four stilts a bamboo hut rose from the hacked green land, out of it a woman came with a bowl of boiled beans in her hands for me to eat beneath a tree, white hens scratching all around, kept from the cruel sun, hid away in the kind shade while up from the river her children run watching till I’m done to thrust at me a gourd full of water I drink, wash with what’s left over the bowl I take when I go to pay the woman who shakes her head and says, “De nada,” getting from me empty what she’d given full. I wanted at least to thank her, and was about to, my lips puckered, tongue still on my mouth’s floor not used too much if I can detect at all in the beginning sound of pronunciation of the word. “Muchas gracias,” I said. What I saw was a breathing keeping watching in us all.

Boa Constrictor

Hands lift her there and leave her. Immediately she knows there’s nothing now but waiting for the silence in the corner to one day move, grab her, and starts to walk back and forth without stop, clucks or sticks her neck between the wires sending skinny cries across the market and the river though no one comes to save her, then she steps in its water dish only to step out of it.
Cascades of copper, the green of unripe bananas bands of black separate like a shadow. Shined stone it seems, an idol come on suddenly separating boughs of leaves. I watch it, wait to see it breathe slight undulations at the rib cage. What doesn’t think or blink, reacts, eyes staring opaque depths where light is swallowed never to come back from many coils, a sucking swirl, thick big round ball—out of that its broad flat head is resting flat against the wire floor of a wire cage. I pity, turn afraid. The jungle goes with it. I see it stays.

without calamine

When bitten do not scratch
where the skin will rise and fester
where what surfaces and permeates
begs you to be reached.
It’s not the gnat remains.
Gnat’s gone again to high grass
with your blood digesting
left an agony not over
should you ooze and spread the sore
for a moment’s pleasure and respite.
Scratch it, what goes comes again grown
sore more than it was before
and so on etcetera
till madly wanting it to quit
you’ll be completely itch
with all your fingers there
lifting flesh up into nails.

Lilies of the field

Cut for my eye’s pleasure
set in a vase withered.
Within my wanting hand
those fiery raiment became rags.
What’s plucked is ash.
I cannot put them back.

Place of the Rocks

O physical love! O pain!
You’re so much the other, so much the same.
Only remembered the moment you happen.
Must we sit, must we wonder
at what we’ve forgotten forever?
Flesh perhaps is death.
Of breast and skull I’ve tasted
and yet remain unquenched
though there’s something in the breath
that does sustain and keep me.
And the future, one of three
mouth, vagina or a wound
never comes then came too soon.
Among the tombs we kiss, we parted.

Mad Sara

El que no tiene amor
no ha conocido a Dios
pues Dios es amor.
Where your treasure is
there your heart will be also.

Somos monos,” Sarita tells us then with both hands over her groin, “This too is God’s,” she warns. Now all the Christians have gone south in search of hidden peaceful valleys and the coke dealer’s met a bullet’s tip on a side street in Callao. Those who remain think she’s mad. Even Inti her son avoids her, squatting with his face turned from her, shitting the shit of fruit consumed only on our blankets and the floor, defiling our philosophies, Inti wailing when she dumps his matches into water for the lighting candles and book pages is his only occupation, and he can’t understand this three year old when mother says “The fire must come inside,” and not along his fingers where he likes it better burning everything. She wipes shit up. It’s time to bathe. She picks up Inti. Now his head is shaved as is her head since yesterday.
Cocaine allowed into the vein, many days without sleep, the flesh of San Pedro the cactus consumed, scraped off the mirror where Monica’d prepared it, left it drying, those green crystals like the scales of fish sent flying into the sunlight on her knife’s edge bitter and nauseous. All these things are partly the reason we made a fire and danced around it, an ancient fire, the same to which our kind first came out of whose flames were pulled all faiths, charred bloody meats and poetry, our chanted sole security when sun sinks into sea and it gets black and no one is so very sure the light is ever coming back.
Some of us played on flutes, some clapped, all travelers come from many places, drawn together dancing for a time in harmless hallucination except Sarita who sees in our movements a door swing open where she enters and it closes on her there without us though it would seem within us.
Now she holds us, weeps. Strange words she speaks that make no sense, and with her fingers offers signs. Now nothing is the same; it all has changed. She snaps her fingers, gives us other names, in words finds words using them as seriously pleading into night leaving us no sleep. Some answer harshly, “Wait, Sarita, till we wake!” But now the word moves in her ear, moves everywhere, a word we can’t hear yet see her talk to dogs with it, to the river and the street. It’s only with us she can’t speak; where we are she isn’t and where she begs us come we wouldn’t because whistles and knelt agony on a mattress are not paths to us but the certainty of madness.
“Sarita,” we say, “please listen. No word balances equal in any two ears. No object is perceived the same. We are all alone in the same room and this ultimate coupling that you seek is never reached. From different wombs in different times enticed by a certain set pattern of stars that gathered for our moment to pull and still pulls us out of one earth fed by one rain we are each different and in that the same.”
But she pounds the wall and will not listen. She sees, she flees from us. We hear her in the street. “Amor! Amor!” she screams now vanishing now appearing in the market where dogs gnaw a carcass, drag it from stall to stall, zigzag and growl down the foot-flattened aisles edged by old women who soon will be selling the sacks of potatoes on which they’re sleeping, wrapped in their blankets like a low wall Sarita passes, stoops to find a mango squashed and left to rot which she carries to the river to eat what she may of it, flinging the stringy seed into the Rimac whose swift awful currents would tear her limb from limb if she fell in, but on the very edge she lifts her arms in moonlight and the sound of white splashing rocks is wetting her with spray as mountains rise off in the distance dark as the night but clearly seen because they hold no stars like the vast sky behind them.
“O black horizon, won’t you speak? Who are you, ancient Andes, reclined in sleep piercing the sky with your heads and sharp hips? Wake, wake,” she sings and then drinks from the pissful river, washes her hands and hops a ride to Lima to stand in Plaza San Martin as the sun is rising telling passing people nothing really matters, but people walk, they do not listen so to show them what she means, she takes off her shift, a simple movement of white cloth, a muddy bed sheet sewn together with the leather that was left from many hours of making purses that she sold to tourist ladies who stepped out of taxis into barred hotels.
But of the eyes and mouths, the laughter that is fear that gathers bringing policemen, priest and obscene calls, of all of that she tells me later when alone and barefooted I meet her in Chosica beneath the pepper tree Mina once told me was her dead drunkard father. And she comes soft and pretty as a flower with an aura and a calmness all about her. She laughs and says, “We’ll have to share our blankets; the night’s cold.” While Inti squats to burn my volume of Neruda there in the dust she draws a line with her finger there between us. “The choice isn’t yours, but mine,” she says, “if I want to cross this.” And then she stands, touches my hand.

Festina Lente.
Hurry slowly.

Canta y no llores.
Sing and don’t cry

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