Monday, January 20, 2014
where the festival was to take place.
Greeted by itinerant musicians
playing something like klezmer music,
We were soon surrounded by shamans
with headdresses like juke-boxes
made of tinsel and feathers,
feathered boas around their robes the color of sorbets,
all of them shaking marachas.
Lead to a small chapel from which billowed copal smoke,
its lineaments obscured
by smoke, jukeboxes, feathers,
as honored guests, we were compelled by etiquette
to sing a phonetic anthem with ten dozen choruses.
The dialect was unknown
to the anthropologist who accompanied us,
as well as to the barrio shaman--call him "Mario"--
acting as our interpreter.
The former supposed
that it was some synchronous paean
to assorted demiurges, saints.
I wished it was "Yankee,Go Home."
Some whim or intuition
had lead me to wear a business suit,
trusting that it act as a prophylactic measure
and keep the gods at bay.
This was only partially successful.
Repelled by my cologne,
they did not pass
the threshold of my conciousness,
taking possession of me
(as they did my junior colleagues)
instead crawling at my feet like lizards, hissing
with forked tongues imprecations
whose import--though in Nahuatl--
did not escape me.
Your gods are demons, I thought,
picking my way through the cow dung.
Strictly local, they delight
when an afternoon knife fight
ends in shed blood.
It pleases them that
some wretched widow thereby
fulfills a destiny slated
from day one of becoming
a mater dolorosa hocking pig parts,
that children are hitched
like donkeys to a spindle
which makes the merry go round go around.
In a circle of peyote takers with a look
of ecumenical bliss straight from California
danced the anthropologist, his loopy grin
confirming my hatred of the ineffable.
The book he'd write later
lead to tenure, and a second Volvo.
(the illustration is of an Asmat body mask now in the DeYoung)