A Rooster in Tepoztlán
1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 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.
Copyright © 2018 by Paul Muldoon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
"I have had the pleasure several times of teaching at Under the Volcano, a writing program in the beautiful Mexican town of Tepoztlán. Tepoztlán is known mostly as being the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl and the location for the first version of The Magnificent Seven. This past January, however, I found myself writing about the dogs and roosters in which the town most evidently abounds. At one level, I kept asking myself if the world really needs another rooster poem. Probably not. Even so, here it is.”
Born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, in 1951, Paul Muldoon is the author of numerous collections, including Moy Sand and Gravel, which won the Pulitzer Prize.
Date Published: 2018-04-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/rooster-tepoztlan