Lady Xoc

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.