Cibola 89

This entry is part 88 of 119 in the series Cibola


Esteban/Cibola/Shiwanna (conclusion)

The sleeper starts,
gets up, sure he felt a body
creeping under his blanket.
Reaches, finds something sticky,
stirs the fire.

A shape of horror,
the beautiful woman who took
him to bed revealed in
her true shape: a corpse
sleeping without sleep, waking
without waking up,
rising so all the rest
of the flesh drops off,
he strikes the skull from the neck
& the bones fall in a clatter. But
the voice, the girl’s voice
merely grows more shrill,
demanding love,
insisting on the faith
he almost remembers pledging,
threatening Hell in an instant as
he flees the now-
ruined house, literal
ghost town
for the ancestors
of some tribe
who live under a curse in an old story.
He almost remembers it,
how they all pack up & leave
to avoid retribution,
down in the burning land
rebuild their towns:
whole kingdoms of witches, now,
who begin to send their raiding
parties north,
their slavers south . . .

He runs.
He can hardly move.
The level plain keeps turning
into mountains. And all
the while a rumbling
as the skull rolls
after him, baying
despite its disarticulated
jaw, the grin
by now so wide
it can feed on wind,
can suck down every cloud
as it crests the horizon.
It’ll be his fault when the fields
turn to stone, it’s because of him
the corn maidens flee,
the millet beer turned sour,
the butter didn’t come.
The ancestors holler, shaking
their rattles, pounding the floor
with their fat stubby limbs.
Desperate, wild,
he whirls around

& nothing. The shrieks
come from his own throat,
regular as the cries
of a woman giving birth,
sounds without meaning.
No. Sounds too full of meaning
to reduce to words,
coming too fast, rising,
bubbling up
like the foam on beer,
congealing into one
long cry, &
sweet jesus! the newborn all
sticky with the waters
of its birth, cold.
Possessed by a single wail
that signifies No.
And at ten
days old still
anonymous, not yet
a finished being.
Plucked from its fitful sleep
& carried out
naked to show
the newly risen

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