Selections from
Chants of Nezahualcoyotl & Obsidian Glyph

by próspero saíz

from "Chants of Nezahualcoyotl"

i could not embrace the fire of the sun
the blinding sacred elements of high noon
were night and wind a higher calling?
yet who could stay us in the night and wind?
ah   tloqueh nahuaqueh   i thought you needed me
the gods need poets
the poets need gods
although they are never true each to the other
poems make it so forever and ever
unless the poem were to be mute in all its truth
oh     who can voice such elevated silence?
who can accept the call of the impossible?
the riddle of the close and near
fled now to who knows where...
the toltec world grown cold
the heat of the god's presence bent
toward a place without existence
where i cannot go and dwell
i do not know if i exist here
are we presentiments of what has been?
nobody here can be a friend to the god
i   nezahualcoyotl can only invoke words
and so i'm whiling in the stillness
wondering what changes the course of things
the warm blood in my heart says something
but what it is i cannot say
my words say look at me
i am here   a quetzal and a white flower
a flowery-feathered fan erect in splendor
by the dark lake waters
where the white cane floats
where the fine mist wets the face
yes i   nezahualcoyotl   am here!
who dances yonder?
where is the place of music?
my toltec art is going...
my song is nought but deepest grief
will things appear again
under precious green willows
in the extensions of the creeping fog?
why was the past not null for song?
our present is an empty waiting...
why are all things vanishing now?
i forge my songs in darkness
it is tempting to love only
                                      the night and wind
in this sterile time of endless waiting
with nothing to foresee or tell...
the time of the poem   will it ever be....


i   nezahualcoyotl   what have i seen?
have i named anything,
since i am not urged by you   oh   tloqueh nahuaqueh?

the tree is gone forever

i do not feel the wind
nor tremble with joy
in the still primeval night
i   nezahualcoyotl   long for a time
between day and night
i long for a new light
yet know such light will never bend unto me...
and the sacred rays of the sun that shine from heaven
will never be my form of light
and the tree will never shine transparent

the tree is gone forever


3. nezahualpilli

and i    nezahualpilli
remember my father's slender limbs
his hands and feet
cold stone
recall my mexica wife chalchiuhnenetzin
daughter of the great high ruler axayacatl

...without words hatred grows
without words in broad daylight...

yes i put her to death
in the room where we loved
one day   i   found
paintings and statues of her many lovers
adorned with precious stones and cloth
...she had them put to death... after the lust
to me she said
they are my gods

i recall my eldest son
the poet huexotzincatzin
his affection for my concubine
the woman of tula
merchant's daughter and poet
more learned than our wisest men
oh   huexotzincatzin
you sent your poems to her
but why did she respond in kind

i cannot say...
whether you shared my mat with her
yet the joy of your songs
i judged to be high treason
unable to breathe
i stood and watched you
hanging there
oh huexotzincatzin
whose was the fault
twisting in space
silent blood trickled
from the corners of your mouth
something spoke through you
an impotent word
your nudity and silent face
shattered my very bones
words strangled my mind
my mouth became a spasm
oh huexotzincatzin
my lungs resist the air
i breathe out your name
poetry and death
surround my days
i remember the beautiful hands of my father
how they gently held the painted books
the feet of my father
cold chiseled stone
in the palace of tears
i have wept
i have watched the stars
in the palace of tears
year after year after year


[and she came before you
erect and proud she stood
upon your flowery mat
she only lent herself to you
a mist trembling
her body never rested
your fluttering heart
your swollen plume
your sighs of want
a moaning without song

her back and eyes in arch
her mouth in smile
her hands on splendid jade
the night a lightning flash
drawn by her thighs

did you live in the world
with real flower-feasts
in splendor senses sated

your lips caress the silence
but who can truly hold the reins
when thoughts of joy are foaming

your yearning heart burns with her taste

she only lent herself to you
and the supple neck of song
will never bring her back

your burning flesh is now an orphan
her pungent dew has dried upon your dream
and you may wrap her cast-off flowers
in the   s t r a n g e   garments she left behind

and you are just a singer of flesh and blood
and the sweat of mystery wets your brow
and you know it is time to abandon yourself
and tomorrow you will be a   s t r a n g e   bundle
resting upon that mat of blue and yellow feathers
where yesterday you slept with a flower of toasted corn

may your song take you with it
may you go without violence]

and when teanatzin's wife came to me
she didn't tell me she was married
she incited me
all vows were violated there
she had to die
it was agreed
teanatzin loved her so
he pleaded for her life
why must she die he asked
you have enjoyed yourselves
teanatzin could not bear to lose her
this was a noble gesture on his part
a public gesture...
without regard for my dignity and honor
i imprisoned him for a long time
in the darkness of the prison
he composed a song of woe
my musicians sang his song to me
and i set him free
poetry and death
attend my days
i watch the skies at night
and often murmur
when ..?          TLOQUEH NAHUAQUEH
                                                                                  lord of the close
and near

poetry... gift... curse?
composer of poems am i
songs of sadness come from me
where have you gone my friends?

in mexico-tenochtitlan
the eagle never rests
shields descend
strands of death
curve earthward in the twilight
do not despair   they say
...the god is there...
the blood-red sun will rise again
after the glorious war of huexotzinco
macuilmalinatzin and tlacahuepan
in atlixco you went down
war raged
all around us
invocations of the sun resounded
shouting everywhere not afraid to die in flowery-war...
fierce clamor of warrior bells
rising smoke
hardening hearts
the growling tiger leapt
midst the din   eagles flew
carrying the hearts of men
in the copper colored sky
red-tinged shields opened up
and received the gift of death on earth
where are you my beloved friends?
magnificent tlacahuepan
you roared
day-warriors awaken!
eagle-knights on your feet!
huitzilopochtli is moving along in sweeping yellow plumage
the wings of the fire-serpent wielder are whirring whirring
we adore you
blue-tezcatlipoca balancing space
we offer ourselves oh hummingbird of the south!
mighty macuilmalinatzin
your words echo in my ears with each heart beat
young warrior open your hand to me you cried
receive me one-flint
i am dying near the burning walls of your enemies
my death rattle floats upon the colors of the spreading rays
shrieks of war pierce the chocking smoke and dust
open your hand to me from the cold blueness of whirring wings
cries of pain from twisted mouths crave bold obsidian death
our bodies are strewn about   here a foe   here a friend
our wounded bodies weave around the glory of your flowers
i nuzzle the damp earth finally
for war is made like this
                     night is coming over me
                                                          my limbs have come to rest

where do you wander my friends?
fingernails torn right at the root from my flesh
war is deceit
war is water-fire
war is intoxication
blood is nectar there
where eagles scream
we drink so much there
our faces purple
all is lost in winning
water-fire   water-fire
scorched jade
smouldering feathers
blinding stench
who can tell the difference
between killing and dying
i raved in glory
your youthful faces
were stained
slowly turning yellow
war bathed you
you were buried there
midst the stunning horror
of the dance of death
friends depart
i weep
yes my heart
nourished too
by water-fire
caught in the grand destiny of the mexica...
drying tears

from "Obsidian Glyph"


vii. Fractura or Stone of the Suns


tlal lal lal tlal. . .

                  stone and water place
[itzaes: witch   witch of the water]

the serpent of mother-of-pearl shell is dripping

who eats the corn of water?
who sits beneath the nipple-tree?

[her underskirt is made of stars]

someone's sister cries

cahuitl: time    what is being left behind...
                          waiting ahead waiting ahead

                                                            mountainous desert
mesa central
old pyramid of Cuicuilco
giant pyramid of Cholula
maize   baskets   pottery
potatoes   beans   cocoa
votive figurines of clay
the place where things lie hidden
burial site:   a few feet of earth
edges of the dying mountain waters
again a home for the poorest of the poor

chi     chi     chi     TLAL        TLAL TLAL...

clean chili peppers then
days of feasting
naked women stamped with red and yellow mud
the pouting child's mouth
Pyramid of the Sun
Camino de los Muertos
closed by the Pyramid of the Moon
masks of Tlaloc
charcoal hearths burning burning out
the trees are burning still

in the heaviness of night
the Stone of the Suns rests
in the heaviness of light
in the place of the cactus
                                                       s t i l l
the sharp obsidian glyph
from the face of flame

and the sun sets in the museum

along the way
out of the valley
a fawn sees the dawn
with the eye of a bird
along the way
far far away from museums
far from the city of smoke
a child feels the night
with the heart of a shaman
she lingers barefoot with a tiny bell
in fields of dew and marigolds
in the dark she hears a cry
near the circle of the drum
she sees the lightning wink
in the thickness of the thunderstorm
her ears harvest mother-sounds

(And Coatlicue will not stay in the museum)

the stars fall off
the sun takes refuge
in the immense vagina
womb     womb    womb
fertile decay
open nostrils
the earth

(The Serpent Tunic moving   s t i l l)
...oh, my Grandmother, of flaccid breasts,
we have nothing,
your body is our only stuff here
                            s t i l l
garments of rattlesnakes you wear,
your pitted body shelters them, endlessly,
they come and go from holes of generosity,
Mother, poorness girdles you,
your claws help dig our graves,
we are always in your hands,
huge snakes with turquoise skins
make up your head,
garlands surround your neck,
an eagle vase which holds the human heart;
hands and hearts your unbearable necklace...
we bite the hand that feeds us always,
human skull, with human eyes, your buckle,
red leather and snail shells, your many wombs!
Grandmother, I feel the pain in your heart,
from giving birth to one and all.
I thank you, Toci, for this life,
sustain my wanting body for awhile,
I shall return to you someday
and hang my head over your beating heart
oh, my Mother, nothing have we...

move to the rhythms of the birth-mother
to the flesh and blood of mother-song

...keep going north my daughter
you entered the womb of Mexico
through the navel of the basin
(there a brown cord ties us to the moon)
slip out of the supple vagina of Mexico
which opens up in the great Sonora
and wets the sands with bitter-sweet
do not veer toward the whiteness
resist the westward pull of Lake Mexcaltitlan
reach the borders and cross them
you may look back and weep
put on your new dress and sandals
then take your garments off and burn them
the ashes will blow in the desert wind
and the crows will circle over them
cleanse yourself   in the sands of Arizona
then move north ever northward
until you reach the cold salt ocean
thence await the yellow-feathered colibri
and watch him change into his many feathered capes
now guacamaya
now quetzal
now azulejo
through cold mists and clouds watch him rise and fall
praise the rain clouds
praise the hail    frost    and snow
the infinite dust of all things gathers there
after your prayers
await the fat hummingbird
who wraps himself in cosmic dust
catch him and kill him
end his peregrinations
end his victory over the dusty stars
hold him gently in your hands
and put him to your breast
feel his rapid breathing
then tear off his frail feet
in the dark of night
scatter his yellow feathers to the east
in the gray of morning
scatter his blue feathers to the south
at noon scatter his green feathers to the north
let the west wind blow his white feathers everywhere
in the cold evening
scatter his red feathers to the west
hold the black feathers there in the north
then open your hands and let them drop
cut off his head and place it in the salty waters
wait until the waters move no more
four-hundred stars will sparkle and dance again
perhaps you will return to us again
that no one can tell
but it can be said, my child,
there is not
                               there will not be
                                                                  a SEXTO SOL
yet your tiny footprints will stay awhile
a tender mark: you will have passed over...

footprint    footprint
dreaded turkey claw
there    there    in the ground corn

...Madre, here in the mountain
the echo of a wild turkey gobbling
shattering the two-toned drum
silencing the magic of the flageolets...

lone cloud in the sky,
darkling blue wattle of the turkey cock

the volcanoes capped with holy snows
clashing clashing
remember the end of march
Tlaloc's wife is crying

maize young and green
flowing beauty of bare breasts
the running women
maize young and green
free open shiny breasts
the food is coming

...Hija, we   exist
day comes   day goes
night comes   night goes
there is a difference in between
that is all...

scorched and powdered skin
cuts around the neck the arms the legs
long shallow cut down the back
the red carcass
received by the stone
the awful smell
drying cracking skin
old skin
the maize seed cracking through
green shoots out of dead seeds
golden skin
burst out of the yellow!

...mother, is there a shadow within?...

who is riding the chinampas
time rides upon the floating gardens

...Hija, do you see the Morning Star?...

beware    Toxcatl      in the month of may
the dust of winter is slippery in the rains

...the basin of mexico a long time darkening
no longer by the misty dampness of Tlaloc
but by strange clouds
                                 I feel but do not know
there is a burning without fire and light
the eyes weep and the lungs shrink
the skin itches and the hair turns brittle
midst the deafening noises in the basin
there is a deadly silence that cannot be denied
the heart beats out
no more no more no more
no copper-colored tail
no flashing breast of fire
no beak of green and blue
seeking the golden honey!
no giant butterflies
no thin delightful wings
no dancing spirits in the air...

...sometimes I sit alone at night
hidden in the city of smoke
I see old native women
with eyes embedded in their elbows
with mouths embedded in their knees
their finger joints are made of tiny white teeth
their nails reveal quick flashing eyes and thick eyelashes
as they walk about their knees bite savagely at the dirty air
and their eyes hunger for the vanished waters...
one lonely night
an old one said to me:
...... Hija,
  my skirts are black and red
  my skin is ancient vegetation
  my hair is all of trees flowers and herbs
  my eyes are springs and little caves
  my nose is the spine of the mountains
  my mouth is a river of tears
  it floods the silent night
  my old feathered-fan is all of soot
  held up by a calcined stag's horn......
...but they took her away for asking--
  ......where have the two stags gone
who once nuzzled the soft belly of the meadow?.....
four times she was taken
beaten upon a huge stone in the jail
her ancient nails scraped the stone
during the fourth and final beating
she called the stone   teucomitl
                                                  the divine bowl
she cried out ......cut off my head
and roll it there......
she is seen in the streets no more...

       chi    chi    chi the foot of the cactus   a nest...
water black ink
...they sunk your brother
darker than ink...
...he drowned...
barren island
flowers of grama-grass
...mama        yo ya me voy
i go   i go
my hair and my nails will continue to grow
the water-gardens will float in my eyes...

Chicomoztoc     Chicomoztoc
seven caves       seven caves
lost in the whiteness
lost       lost       lost
the stone cold blade falling
the red
the black
inviting rapture
allowed to bleed to fade
unto the face
lightning strikes the drum
away from all beyond and thunder

chi     chi     chi

open chest
joyful spasms
trembling flesh
into darkness and splendor

light through skin
blackness of the underworld
never blackness of the night
no footprints between
the jaws of the earth
and the hill of flowers
pink slash between warm legs
the pathway through the stars
blood colored stone knife
the black warrior emerges from the cave
the serpent jaws of earth open
footprints scattering in the sky
awls of bone
blood streaming
over the flower and the hummingbird
wind-masked mouth
feather tufts
spiral wind-bejeweled neck
hand encircled shaft
dark growing vegetation
angry jaguar skin throne
relics   tears   and semen
vastness beckoning
opening up
nakedness of darkness
torn bodies coming always
tears and semen pouring
out in milky flow
the hairy part
horror of the end of night

...child seek not your father
he is dead and buried
he slept with his sister
they drank pulque all night long
at dawn he forgot to go to the river
at dawn he forgot to walk on thorns
they slept all day
the room was a coffin of stone
I remember his face
I remember his figure
he died a poor man's death in golden california
in the poisoned fields of wrath
I tried to remove the dirt over his face
I let his bones alone
his eyes were clogged with tiny stones
the california Condor soars over his grave
he fastens his eyes on Mexico
his sister still weeps in the mountains
she sighs and swallows hailstones
her tears pit the early morning frost
her curved legs feel the white sweat of the snows...

far       far     away from the wide valley

and the island marshes

                                                            of dry Texcoco Lake
Tenochtitlan is sinking still

vast night and vast   sands of Sonora
the child's finger writes the sky
the stars are gone...
(perhaps they linger still
in the stealthy   jaguar's pelt
in the misty jungles of the night)

the night is full of names
on the circle of the shore

in the dreamy-center of Texcoco is sinking            s t i l l

misty necklace of the mountain
far away

long before emergence
Zapotecs     Mixtecs
                                                              Ancient Teotihuacan
names names in the night
the rain falls
on the blue corn
the rain falls
on the corn necklace

along the way
she saw the   dawn
with the eye of a fawn


good-bye Arizona
with crooked gait i go
the panting moon
trotting by my side
tired out the old Dragoons
outpaced the silent Catalinas
adios, i say, my Arizona
i couldn't bear to leave you
in the glory of your desert dawn

good-bye Arizona
with halting step i go
past the organ pipe cactus swirling in blue
past your White Dove of The Desert
too old too proud to coo
i hear old Tohono O'Odham sounds
coloring the skies over Tubac and Tumacacori
goodbye my Sonora
your silent saguaro stands out of time
i cross the red rock to your north in Sedona

good-bye Arizona
at high-noon i go
haunted by shadows near high Mitten Buttes
ancient races echo in Monument Valley
where the silvery tones of the Navajo fade
and the snakes of the Hopi take me up to the mesas
and the deer watch the river from the top of the Canyon

good-bye Arizona
your copper sun sets under my feet
and your precious winds blow
my old bones in the night
i rest for a moment by the bristlecone pine
and hear painted ponies snorting the clouds

good-bye Arizona with crooked gait i go
in the dimming of the Little Bear's tail
i shall not return again
but from afar i'll always long for you
i'll hear the howl of the red coyote
whose yellow eyes have often followed me
through endless sandy washes
adios, my dusty friend, in Arizona...

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Copyright © 1996 by Ghost Pony Press.

Light and Dust Mobile Anthology of Poetry.