A Rooster in Tepoztlán

- 1951-
Confirmed in their belief there’s still a need
for worship prior to Lauds,
the street-dog choristers

insist on how
any three of them form a quorum.
However great the din

they’re eventually forced to cede
their urine-soaked sod
to a single rooster,

his beak the prow
of an imperial quinquereme
at the break of dawn.

Not that a rooster ever rues
the day of days
he first lowered the tone

by kicking up a fuss.
He specializes in splutter and spout.
Sometimes the bearer

becomes the bad news,
as when Augustus would parlay      
the cult of Diana

at Ephesus
into the out-and-out
worship of himself as Emperor.
A rooster will pay cash on the barrel
to join the Praetorian Guard
but the flanking eagles betoken

our throwing off one yoke
even as we take on fresh burdens.
Left to his own devices, a rooster will don

the kind of gaudy apparel
more often associated with the bard—
the three-quarter-length tuigen            

or “feather-cloak.” 
That he has a sense of his own importance
is hardly something he’ll deny.

That wattle-ear was sliced
off a slave
by the self-same Simon Peter

who’d cover it with a tissue
of lies… The blue gel,
the iodine,

the ice-pack ice.
The pigs who’ve had a close shave
in the abattoir

are in such a daze
they can’t tell
Gethsemane from the Garden of Eden.

The rooster’s claws are tempered by calcium
derived from the forearm
of a devotee of Saint Francis Xavier

going for broke
as he sawed the heart from a yucca
or agave. The rooster himself would never deign

to take a shortcut to Elysium
via fermented sap. Beating his breast on a farm
is learned behavior

but the tendency to stroke
his own ego                             
is pretty much baked into his DNA.

From the top
of the rubbish tip on which he’s parked
he rubbishes any duenna

trying to pull rank.
His hens are rumpled. Raggedy-ass.
Most statements issued from his pilaster

of slow-cured adobe
are followed by an exclamation mark!
A sheet of corrugated tin

is his main plank.
“When oh when,” he blubbers, “will this cup pass?”
All bully-pulpitry. All bluster.

For it’s very rarely a cup of joy,
the cup
that runneth over.

More a seed-bleed
from the agave’s once-in-a-lifetime pod.
More a fairground tune 

from a wind-up toy
winding us up
for what seems forever.

Till the street-dogs have once again treed
a god
somewhere on the outskirts of town.

Extraordinary Rendition


I gave you back my claim on the mining town
and the rich vein we once worked,
the tumble down
from a sluice box that irked

you so much, the narrow gauge
that opened up to one and all
when it ran out at the landing stage
beyond the falls.

I gave you back oak ties,
bully flitches, the hand-hewn crossbeams
from which hung hardtack

in a burlap bag that, I'd surmise,
had burst its seams
the last night we lay by the old spur track.


You gave me back your frown
and the most recent responsibility you'd shirked
along with something of your renown
for having jumped from a cage just before it jerked

to a standstill, your wild rampage
shot through with silver falderals,
the speed of that falling cage
and the staidness of our canyon walls.

You gave me back lake skies,
pulley glitches, gully pitches, the reflected gleams
of two tin plates and mugs in the shack,

the echoes of love sighs
and love screams
our canyon walls had already given back.

Related Poems

Read Your Fate

A world's disappearing.
Little street,
You were too narrow,
Too much in the shade already.

You had only one dog,
One lone child.
You hid your biggest mirror,
Your undressed lovers.

Someone carted them off
In an open truck.
They were still naked, travelling
On their sofa

Over a darkening plain,
Some unknown Kansas or Nebraska
With a storm brewing.
The woman opening a red umbrella

In the truck. The boy
And the dog running after them,
As if after a rooster
With its head chopped off.