Friday, December 17, 2010

Los Retablos

Somebody says, God damn! why you choosing San Juan de la Cruz
for your patron saint? –The fourteenth of December comes and goes.
I recite "en la noche oscura de la alma" but he doesn’t know illiteracy
when he hears it, or he’d say, How many summers did you live there,
in Mexico? And I’d say, If you can call it living. And he’d say nothing
more. You can’t stay in the City two summers in a row and remember
everything a near half century later. You could get all wound up, jive
yourself, but Hilda Gadea was there only for an afternoon, red fingernails
flashing like I already said somewhere, throwing sparks. In that room,
Che dead a year. Don’t tell me you didn’t approve of what he tried to do,
you just slum around his remains in your head. Urn of forgetfulness,
ashes and bones of hell quiet after the guns in the Bolivian jungle
and cackle from the generales who think the peasants know nothing
to do but shuffle in the dust and smile. Could fat shits even guess why?
I can’t abide it, I want to say, but don’t and go off and drink my café
con leche in the cantina out the door of the hotel where we are staying
as long as we have dinero. I don’t go back. I walk around the corner
to Palacio de Bellas Artes, where the Siqueiros triptych hangs, the cry
La Nueva Democracia straight out to the spectator: Cuauhtemoc under
the knife; Rivera’s four panels of Carnaval de la Vida Mexicana, then
Orozco’s Katharsis. Who remembers now Teresa de Avila covered up
Juan’s self-inflicted wounds and kissed his feet, and norteamericanos spit
in the street and swear disgust is not their greatest expression of distaste.
From Mina y Buenavista, up Calle Alvarado, the zona rosa is open now.

But I’m in Tokyo as long as I can bear it. Then back to the Kyoto digs.
I could be in Chimayo if I’d stayed home. I think of a little mountain
that loomed as you round a bend on the highway nearing the village.
It looks larger than it is. And beyond the sanctuario lies Las Truchas,
then Las Trampas. They paint what they feel on the walls of houses,
pero no iglesias. Red letters and black, it’s all the same, but not to those
who are told to be quiet and choose to speak. I understand such impulse.
The guy who asks about St. John of the Cross could never understand
why there’s never a human reason to sweep altars clean of los retablos.

(17 December 2010)

copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander

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