Cibola 44

Esteban (2) (conclusion)

An hour later he runs into his guides.
The locals say they know
the best road north. They only ask
you stay at least two nights:
it’s planting time, not everyone
can make it for tonight’s session.
You’ll need the intervening day
to sleep; the leading men clamor
for the privilege of putting you up.

Another town of brown mud houses
clustered above the floodplain–
from this distance nearly invisible
against the hills–where
his ambassador the medicine
gourd awaits. From each patient
it will take the flutter of a wrist,
the throb in a neck or flicker
of a guilty eyelid. Esteban has only
to hear & diagnose.
Less heart than liver, he muses.
A blotter pad for all bad blood.

The saint, the cross,
the paper in his pocket–these
are small voices, rarely
an audible chorus. Like his own
ears & eyes they sometimes fail.
But the gourd is as good as
the hand that holds it: & these
hands of his can talk, can read,
can draw forth the body’s secrets,
the hidden hurt.

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