Cibola 48

This entry is part 47 of 119 in the series Cibola


Marcos 2 (conclusion)

A raven circling the next valley
glides back, & spiraling low, folds
one wing & rolls,
turning on its axis
like a slow black windmill. Then
with a few powerful strokes
rejoining the current, floats back
up over the ridge, the stony ravines
echoing with its hoarse cries.

A hurried conference takes place
among the few dozen escorts native
to this portion of the route.
Marcos hears laughter & the hum
of bowstrings being stretched.
They leave at a trot, the raven croaking
from somewhere far upslope.
A herd of deer in the next valley
says one of the Mexicans–or so
they think
. But Marcos remembers Elijah,

& knowing from his own childhood
enough about the strange ways of ravens–
far more, in fact, than these
jaded aristocrats–has perfect faith in Providence.
Oh taste & see,
he recites from the Psalter,
his nostrils already flaring in anticipation,
tongue gingerly testing wind-cracked lips.

Marcos remembers Elijah: The prophet Elijah was famously fed by ravens in the wilderness. See 1 Kings 17:3-6

O taste and see: Psalm 34:8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Cf. Ps. 19:10 and 119:103; Deut. 32:13; Songs 4:11; Matt. 3:4; etc. The reference in each case is not to an act of theophagy, but to the internalization of the divine Torah/Word. Revelation 10:10 gives this an especially literal – and unusually ambiguous – spin: “And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.”

We can presume that Marcos has read Cabeza de Vaca’s account, and thus is aware, at some level, of the extreme reverence that Indians in this region feel toward deer – the sacrificial animal par excellance. Later Jesuit missionaries in northwest New Spain seem to have been fairly tolerant toward what we might call the cult of the sacred venison heart, taking it to be a divinely inspired intuition of the role of Christ. The deer dancer occupies a central position in the ceremonial life of the otherwise Catholic Yaqui; for the un-Christianized Huichol, Deer is part of a sacred trinity that also includes Maize and Peyote.

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