Cibola 116

This entry is part 115 of 119 in the series Cibola


Simon Zopeloxochitl (cont’d)

My lord, it’s true, everything
I’ve written: they honor the Lords
of Earth & Sky without drawing
a drop of blood.
Any man can carve a god
in his own image: feathered shaft,
sacrifice reduced to mere intent,
pure attention.
Their priests, sitting in darkness,
can raise the Earth’s very pulse.

Despite their suspicions, they let me
observe their ceremonies–though once
they found a pile of my sketches
& burned them. I learned
of a lake to the west where
the ancestors live, a place of herons.

It’s true, they impersonate
the gods of our youth:
Xilonen, Xochipilli, Xiuhtecuhtli.
No writing, no calendar competes
for the Sun Priest’s loyalty;
his accounting is immaculate.
The nameless days
announce themselves
simply by showing their unrepeatable faces.

I have learned
the Popoloca murmur
of wind through dry reeds,
the blood-colored canyons
where the rivers go
to hide under roots of willows.
I have seen the sun & the moon
trade places.

Toward the end, the nahualli
rarely slept except in snatches.
He half-believed a yellowbeard fable
that left no place for him,
an above-ground version of
that World where every locale
melts into every other.

Out of cliffs & crags & buttes
he tried to dream it:
a No-Place just for him,
garden within walls.
They scattered his remains
like dangerous seeds across what they call
Corn Mountain.

When I found the hidden trail to the top
I brought two scraps of deer hide
I’d prepared in lieu of paper,
one dyed red, the other painted black.
On the red parchment
in black ink I inscribed
the names of Christ–
Dios, Plumed Serpent,
Tloque Nahuaque, Sacred Heart–

& on the black scrap, in red ink
the mirror-words
for Tezcatl-Ipoca:

I opened a vein, scattered my heart’s
petals across both pieces,
placed them at opposite ends of the butte.
In four directions I sent my breath,
calling Vulture by his secret name,
Lord of Oracles.

Six days later
when I went to check
both scraps were gone.
Two scrolls of coyote shit
sat in their place,
concise & pointed.

Popoloca – Barbarian. What the Aztecs and other Mexica invaders of the Valley of Mexico were called by the urbanized Toltec, whom they eventually supplanted.

the gods of our youth – I.e., those presumed to predate their cultural assimilation into Mesoamerica.

a yellowbeard fable – I.e., the Seven Cities myth of a Christian utopia in the wilderness.

one dyed red, the other painted black – The Aztec kenning (traditional metaphor) for writing is “the black and the red,” referring to the colors of ink used for the glyphs and illustrations.

mirror-words – Aztec kenning for a kenning.

Tezcatl-Ipoca was the patron deity of sorcerers and the mythological opponent of Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent. The former was identified primarily with the Mexica and the latter with the Toltecs and their predecessors.

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