Friday, January 13, 2012

Ken Wolman

Tenochtitlan, June 1967

                Omeyocan and the Mictlan are Aztec conceptions of heaven and hell. Tenochtitlan is the Aztec name of Mexico City.


In the savage community of their predawn dreaming,
the street boys overrun Chapultepec Park and swarm
through the Anthropology Museum, intruders
in the perfect heaven of Omeyocan.
They shatter the glass cases and strip them
of the feathered headpieces and sacrificial
obsidian knives of the priests.  They stand
on the Paseo in the fumes of a workday morning
in the heart of the extinct crater of Tenochtitlan
though the schools are in session,
selling National Lottery tickets and stale cigarettes
that coat the tongue with the taste of despair
sown deep in the soil of the unfinished countryside
glimpsed like a movie from our car windows
from the old Acapulco road.


A child with the memory of princes in his face
stands by the roadside, scanning license plates.
When he sees a Norteamericano plate,
he dangles by the tail an enormous iguana,
flaps it at turistas, yells things they cannot understand
because the language he speaks predates Spanish.
He is telling them either to buy his iguana,
give him money anyway, or go fuck themselves.

The Aztecs had a word for everything.


Mexico City seen through alcohol and marijuana
is an invention, shimmering with shit.
The only contact with what's been left behind is a headline:
"Jayne Mansfield, Reina de la Cine, Muerta, Decapitata!"

At night there are drugs, strolls on the Paseo,
trips to restaurants, clean well-lighted places
to eat and to get drunk.  Hatred balances hedonism.
Even seeing a cat run over by a car, hearing
the thud and death-screech as it dies in plain sight,
changes nothing but the need to escape.
Mexico surfaces the elemental: Lawrence knew
the power beneath the soil and soiled century
where sucked margaritas that fit nicely inside
the slippery biftec dinners that snuggle comfortably
on a mattress of pre-dinner Seconals
emptied onto nightstands and snorted through banknotes.
Return then to the room, and fuck for hours, blindly.
Is she loud?  The street boys squat,
listening by the open windows.
In the morning there are lagoons of cum,
still damp, where they have knelt.
He thinks it is hilarious to be someone's inspiration;
her face shudders and falls because memory
of the predawn orgy was sacrificed to a sea of tequila.


Two people journey here, locked in passion and hatred
three thousand miles and two thousand years from home,
stretched on each other, shared altars, to await the stroke.

A night at the opera in the Palacio de Bellas Artes,
"Rigoletto" with a no-name cast, and afterwards
walking the streets composing furious reality:
an operatic morality of social justice,
justice and vengeance, revolution for
the hunchbacks and virgins of the Distrito Federal,
a cerveza-scented lament for children who will never know
the language of Fuentes or Neruda,
these street boys envisioned seated by night
in the Mictlan Underworld 'round gray rice and beans,
cursing the condescension, laughing at
turistas from Nuevo York with their store-bought pills.

Reform can wait another day for a Liberator
the resurrection of Benito Juarez.  Meantime,
driving North, the travelers say, "Lleno, por favor"
to the pump attendant in a Pemex station,
but watch him with the eyes of condors
to make sure he isn't ripping them off.


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