Hector son of Hector ! myth and hieroglyph and drizzling sun of Teotihuacan the many vowels it takes to make a rope that climbs to the heavens rock over rock masonry of the gods chiseled out of basalt and quartz doorways and portals to infinity blood-stone and flint and the myriads of hearts tossed against the angry walls of eternity Corazón ! if nothing is sacred then everything is Holy ! up and down the ghostly ramps and suddenly the horse is invented and ruddy beards and white masks and gun-powder reeking clouds all in Spanish boats that sail the eternal skies above Texcoco Madre de Dios ! sunslant and orient of the New World megalopolis of serapes and Calaveras de azúcar sleepless hydras and footless vendors of chili verde rites of the necklaces of the dead and talking mummies stalking the Zócalo and Paseo de la Reforma remunerations of saints who have never seen the Cordillera or the Carretera Panamerican and who have never slept in the roofless motels of Yucatan’s insomniac peninsula or deciphered thought-patterns of the Mayan prophets twenty eight perfect days on a wheel that never turns ! Hector son of Hector ! you travel back and forth on an invisible thread of saliva talking backwards to priests of Coatlicue and dredging liquid infernos that slumber beneath Avenida Insurgentes when you wake up it’s in Los Angeles wearing Boyle Heights mambo zoot suit but when you pull night over your embroidered skull it’s in Coyoacán and you are Cuauhtémoc on your knees before a shrine to Frieda Kahlo and the histories of five hundred years unravel on the destroyed syllables of Quetzalcoatl and the wind is great with abortions and embryos wrapped up like tamales and loud sirens of mediodia in the midst of Zapatistas and Cristeros who are packing a movie theater and shooting stars on the painted ceiling putting civilization to an end there is no frontera no nocturnal bus ride to a urinal just south of Ciudad Juárez where the uncounted assassinations of women keep being ignored there is only the imperfect literature of papel higiénico and the eyeless stumps of beggars pidiendo limosna stoned on illegal vats of pulque or mezcal and the enormous illegible map of Distrito Federal crumpled shat upon and ripped into uneven hemispheres where mindlessly jaywalking the mad poet Santiago Papasquiaro meets death for maybe the second time devuélveme la vida !
Photo by Scott Duncan-Fernandez
APUNTES PARA LA MEMORIA
am I the equivalent of my father ? how can we be who we are ? his was the gift of music 66 years ago drove through Oklahoma and Texas into Mexico on the Carretera Panamericana all the way to Teotihuacan which was a revelation like a Sanskrit dictionary full of sun syllables both pyramids to be climbed and conquered the heights ! everything happened then when he died it was the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Ninth // waves of sound Aztecs transformed into shirts of light transparencies of back and forth up and down fireflies woven through the string section followed by the lonely and brief horn solo motels adobe stucco sleep heat oblivion pan mohoso joyezuelas cazabe cues the world is defined by the vowel it lacks nevertheless twilight sacrifices of grass and fingers blood : the planet Mars ! it’s in the dictionary and like music must be mysterious shapeless drum and drifting into the rust of the cosmos the ear in the rust of the cosmos corn fields and motels motor oil seeping through clouds higher than Tenochtitlan siesta on stone pillows dreaming ancient // scarab and Toltec heat ceremony black sun in the center of the lizard’s eye yellow grain reaping tears modulated skies in the key of Delta home in a refrigerator ! what are words for ? wearing corn skirts the serpent goddess flint knife obsidian blade , mi corazón ! the book of canonical divides photocopies of a language possibly Anatolian in origin , rogations and a fierce god imitating human sorrow descending above the milky cordillera when it will be dawn again and forever his breath always masked by sweets to hide the alcohol hands deftly on the Wheel moving through topographies of rock vastness of pre-history and sandstone up to the wrist in water the flowers dazed corollaries of thought migration of names like birds in the depths of dreams rings inks mosquito coast with canoes ambush ! Aiyeee flechas y rodelas tell me with what you write and I’ll tell you who you are pésimas cartas ! a fling with memory each photograph precisely measured for shade the way the bedrooms slant the oval where they keep vanished cigarettes prayer wheels and monographs about ant-hostilities stylistics and devouring human cause the greater gods on their tight-rope drove several thousand miles across the Rio Grande hurts the eyes the desert light how did we become who we thought we were ? in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes posing for a portrait in cinematic sepia hair glazed brow smoothed by flat conjecture guitars splashing nostalgic fountains la hija de Don Juan Alba dice que quiere ser monja ! it was in high school on the fortieth floor a señorita with bougainvillea for hair grammar lessons annexed to a single verb to dispel dust and twilight listening to the broken dream-speech recover from memory the outline of distance // transformed by the march up-country returned to photographic chiaroscuro as if scouring the sun for wounds the cicatrix of identity 66 years in a thumbnail sketch childhood’s dead actors who once lit up the summer stages performing cigarettes and shoe-wax the lifetime it took to get this far Spanish and its suburban pools dereliction of the Path righteousness and fireflies in which porch did one era end and another begin ? the world’s toxic dance ! in the finish each gets his role and sooner forget than drive into the Sierra Maestra calling out Oh Diego ! Oh Diego ! escribir más es una locura ! set sail in eleven ghost ships a crew of three hundred and fifty hidalgos all indebted to the king promised more gold than it was worth a life a breath a ransomed leaf mountains shivered into hemispheres and questioned the half a dozen who were at the bar that night no one remembered seeing María de la Luz // the biography of Enrique Sabino concludes here its tonal architecture of neo-baroque fugue and spit the land goes down dark and hear no more the cadence of footfall and lung death the señorita shaking her life-length hair and guitars splashing endless inks la hija de Don Juan Alba dice que quiere ser monja ! am I the equivalent of my father ? September 15, 2019
Editor's note: Hector Zamudio is a young poet who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. A poem of his about Tenochtitlan inspired Arguelles to write this piece.
Ivan Argüelles is an American innovative poet whose work moves from early Beat and surrealist-influenced forms to later epic-length poems. He received the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award in 1989 as well as the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 2010. In 2013, Argüelles received the Before Columbus Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. For Argüelles the turning point came with his discovery of the poetry of Philip Lamantia. Argüelles writes, “Lamantia’s mad, Beat-tinged American idiom surrealism had a very strong impact on me. Both intellectual and uninhibited, this was the dose for me.” While Argüelles’s early writings were rooted in neo-Beat bohemianism, surrealism, and Chicano culture, in the nineties he developed longer, epic-length forms rooted in Pound’s Cantos and Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. He eventually returned, after the first decade of the new millennium, to shorter, often elegiac works exemplary of Romantic Modernism. Ars Poetica is a sequence of exquisitely-honed short poems that range widely, though many mourn the death of the poet’s celebrated brother, José.