August 10, 2015

The Valley of Shells and Bones

Chichen Itza

"What scaled and feathered fetish shakes awake our loamy sleep
in these sealed vaults where dust and sand enrobe our golden masks
that hover over dreaming faces drowned in tinted musk?
Here where the spider curls and chitters in the crystal locket.
Here as time's mouth leeches blood and brain and bids
the leather skin to tighten in on the empty, staring socket,
and bind the breath that fading far once laughed within the dusk?"

Here is your thin tin trowel,
And here your sable brush,
For prying loose these mitered stones,
And sweeping off the dust
That sifts between these shaded souls
Like paling ebony snow,
As you squat above the site
Where you worshiped once below.
Come thrust your torch
Through these shattered walls,
And map the stains on stone,
And explicate these distant deaths
From strewn patterns of bone.


The distance that such deaths define
Is measured by that ageless path
That winds up from the sea's last limb
Meandering to the blood's demands,
And, rolling over shells' sharp rims,
Finally finds its well-trod way
To midnight's flaming brands
Where vacant, lusting faces grin
Within masks of whitened clay.


This path slopes through the stunted woods
Where the mantis ruts and broods,
Then spirals down to the sacred caves
Where men in twitching files repeat
The witless chants of wind and waves.

"Thick curds of rancid smoke performed our genuflections.
Our flayed limbs writhed, then steamed in screams of light.
Our lidless eyes became one daring crow's confections.
Our shriveled nerves shrank back from the chittering coal's delight.
Our marrow melted fast as flames licked up our blackened bones.
Our gaping mouths spewed rancid smoke as if they would relate
the secret magic flint and steel on tethered flesh create."

Here is your iron pick,
And here your crested spoon.
Not silver, true, but still
The emblem of your art,
Which is, to wit,
To lay these bodies bare;
Explain their ritual agonies,
Deduce their sorry fate,
Describe their diet, sex,
The colors of their hair,
And tell how long
Their ashen lair
Has lain beneath
Our present pleasant State.

Posted by Vanderleun at August 10, 2015 1:05 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

And yet, when all was stilled,
and Conquistador steel had stayed the obsidion Death. . .
the sun rose in the East, unbidden by the blood of men.

I wonder if the future excavators of our darkened understanding
will consider that the Lie does not die easily.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at September 24, 2011 7:27 PM

Just north of Mexico City is another, a similar set of pre-Aztec ruins still stand. Similar pyramids, similar layout, similar history.

The engineers - the smart folks who decided the way things would be built, the technocrats of their day - used whole tree trunks to build the roofs to their houses.

This was bad advice - it used more wood than splitting trees,and whole logs were less able to deal with the elements than split trees.

The increased rot necessitated increased roof replacement. Which increased the need for trees. Without the trees, the water ran down the sides of the hills rather than being absorbed into the ground, which robbed the springs of water.

The combination killed the community - they ran out of trees, and then water, and what had once been a thriving commercial capital disappeared within a generation.

The lesson of Teotihuacan lives with me to this day - destroying the trees (the product of seeds planted long ago) cuts off water (the money/resources) that feed the spring (the new capital for new ideas) that replenishes the community.

Mexico still lives, a shadow of what it could have been and a precursor to the lives we will all lead. You can't steal from the future without consequence.

Today we face a crossroads. Few deny that we are robbing the future of resources necessary to their survival. The question is whether the future can afford it. The battle has shifted.

We are not yet to the point of no return, but unless we decide to take responsibility for our own survival, our children will have no chance.

I'm thankfully in a position where the future is not an abstraction, but a responsibility. I can only hope that the narcissists of my generation will wake up to that reality before they vote away their own liberty for a promise of security that will evaporate well before they are have ceded their children's freedom.

Posted by: Dan at September 24, 2011 9:40 PM

Nicely put, Dan. Thanks.

Posted by: vanderleun at September 24, 2011 10:33 PM

I get it.

Your verse seems to have a livewire straight into my limbic system.

There were thirty-five bodies dumped on the streets of Boca del Rio last week. 15 heads in a sack in Juarez....

The Old Ways are back. The Old Jaguar Gods are hungry again.

The New World is a tough place. We forgot. They didn't.


Posted by: Gray at September 24, 2011 10:39 PM

We thought that this light which shone upon a path for human civilization for a time was some natural entitlement, when it was the product of miraculous effort. So we behave like heirs to a fortune, not the men who made it.

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"I am Jaguar Paw, son of Flint Sky, and I am not afraid."

Posted by: ghostsniper at April 6, 2014 6:57 PM

I trotted up those stairs at Chicen Itza a good 20 years ago, back when I was in really good shape. No guards or rails at the top. One misstep and it would be an ugly set of bounces down.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at August 11, 2015 5:51 AM