Eighth Century, Mayan

You’re supposed to say shoke but I like shock.

Lady Shock.

Who drew a spiked rope through her
              offering tongue to
burn blood
              into the threads of bark paper, coax

              a smoke―

              so she could froth up
                            the Vision Snake…

              In this particular design 

              the Snake has two. The lower 

disgorges a warrior-god and the upper the ancestral

Two mouths: you’d think, 
              two opposite positions. You’d think she faced 

              a breaking choice: 


For wisdom she went to a fanged mouth,
              Lady Shock.

So she could answer 
              a trick question: man or god 

              of war―                            
I like
              how honest they were, the old


Look how she kneels
              in tranced adoration, the long spear pointed 

              at her brow.

From Banana Palace (Copper Canyon, 2016) by Dana Levin. Copyright © 2016 by Dana Levin. Used with the permission of the poet.

     after the painting by Stanley Spencer 

Even washing is a task, in war and daily
life. The warm and pour, the fresh linen,
the hourglass of soap in its melt telling
us how our tired flesh gleams to fiction
renewal. Time is at war. We are meant to lose
that we may grasp what we know: the waste
of passioned effort. The soldier nearest to us
dunks his face in the bowl, a murky foretaste
of baptismal death. This halo we discover
from which he’ll surely rise, suspender cords
rhyming the sink. Next to him another
wrings the towel and turns his head toward
Bellona. Not incongruous. The patroness,
too, of the trench of days and the hearth’s duress.

Copyright © 2017 Ricardo Pau-Llosa. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.