Cibola 96


The playing board retracts
its four scaly feet,
its tail,
its wizened head.
The players face each other
across the circle:
the red-painted gambler sits in the east,
the black-painted gambler in the west.


Each blows on his fingers,
whispers into his fists.


They toss the two-
sided sticks: red
& red
& red.
Red’s opponent feels the sticks turning
in his hands even before the cast.
Red & red again.


Now deep in the red, Black forfeits
more than his shirt. More.


Stripped of rattles & feathers,
all his fetishes in
a muttering pile behind
his opponent’s back,
with his freedom now at stake,
what else can he put up?
No wife, no children–
I am all
I have left.


He removes his left arm
& sets it down by the pile.
Tosses the sticks:
red side up.
Removes his left leg. Red.
Right leg. Red.
Right arm. Red. Take off
your head.
red: your ribs,
your vital organs . . .

For more on the symbolism of black and red, see the notes to Cibola 52.

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