It's no curse
dragging my belly across
the steaming sand all day.
I'm as thick as a callus
that has shorn off its leg.
If you find me I can explain
the trail made by a single limb.
I am not a ghost.
Do not be afraid.
Though there are ghosts here—
they strip down to wind
or slump against rock to evaporate.
Sometimes I crawl beneath the shedding,
backing up into the flesh pit for shade.
Praise the final moisture of the mouth, its crown
of teeth that sparkles with silver or gold.
I make a throne of the body
until it begins to decay.
And then I'll toss the frock—
death by hunger, death by heat—
off the pimples of my skin.
Don't you dare come into my kingdom,
peasant, without paying respect on your knees!
What generous act did I commit
in my previous life, that I should be
rewarded with this paradise:
a garden in which every tree that takes root here
drops its fruit eye-level to me.
from "Apocalipsixtlán" [5. Signs of the End of the World]
The right path. The phrase echoes in our heads
as we travel west, away from the crack in the earth.
There is no way around it. Some say it connects
Tierra del Fuego to the North Pole and cuts deep
down to the core—a wound that lets the heat escape
each minute of the day. When all of the Américas
became a desert, dividing coast from coast, those
caught in the middle either sunk into the crevice
or sunk into despair. The right path. That’s what
Those Who Came Before tried to sell us before hell
rose from the bowels of the planet to burn the air
in every lung. When the animals began to flee
and the birds headed east, we should have guessed
the doom had come upon us then. But the right path
was not to panic but to study these changes, discuss
policy, hold town meetings—negotiate. Catastrophe
was just another balloon to deflate. By the time
the ground beneath our feet began to shake, it
were already too late to save our cities, which had
turned to liquid we couldn’t drink. Next came thirst.
What comedy to witness humans think they’re
in control of anything. The new collectives with
the old were just as tired and useless as the past.
Their lifetime of mistake and misdirection was what
had killed us. Why repeat the leadership? Why
allow the yesterday to roll its ancient wheels
into the present? Oh preachers of pretense, we
silenced you. Oh teachers of nonsense, we erased
you. The future is ours, you all said, and the future
arrived, bleak and black, but with much less room
to move around. A future without windows or doors,
and one ugly hole in the ground that offers no escape.
What future is this? We asked. And Those Who Came
Before simply shrugged their shoulders and shook
their heads. When the gas discharged from the opening
we smelled the answer—sour odor of crimes against
the land and the centuries of death that had been buried
there. Out flew centuries of damage and buried bodies
to hover above us like magpies shrieking: The crack
in the earth, it is us. The crack in the earth, it is ours.