Wednesday, February 6, 2008
In these thirsty times, it comes to my mind again
like the dying echoes of day in these halls holy:
that squalid afternoon the silent Indian,
a young girl, entered this hushed cathedral
to sip from the Spanish priest’s blesséd water,
sated, maybe, at the tiny oasis in this unforgiving desert
of mercy. Condemning the girl to her native desert
fate, the parish priest pointed, furious, and again
made his sign over the ornate font of water
to make it respectable and holy
for genteel believers. Outside the cathedral,
in the godforsaken square, obsidian Indian
eyes radiated from under blowing wisps of ebony Indian
hair. The girl whispered in strange desert
tongues, and her words fell on the cathedral
as if the rain had come again
from the heavens so contemptuous and holy,
but there came no clouds bearing precious water,
so the priest continued to obsess. Over the tub of water
he cursed that uncouth girl, that beastly Indian,
who, like all of her kind, blighted the holy
places the missionaries had bestowed upon the desert
and unceremoniously profaned their benefactions. Again
the priest dreamt of pure blood filling the cathedral
with proper Latin veneration, as deserves a cathedral
graced by grandsons of conquistadors from over the water.
With each passing year, I have found myself wondering again
about the girl who spoke with nothing but a fierce Indian
grace. I have tried to imagine the dusty desert
paths she has since dignified with her presence so holy.
She is my sun-red rose in a bleached-bone field wholly
populated by upstart weeds that built up their cathedral
of thorns against the ancient, sacred desert
and dared to deem themselves the true priests of water–
yes, on these days I reflect on the miracle of the Indian
and whether she will ever sanctify our streets again.
It is then that I realize that the desert long ago swallowed the girl and our water
as if they had been a mirage, and the twin Babel towers of our holy cathedral
stand only to testify my prophesy: my angelic Indian will not come to cleanse us again.
I wrote this for my creative writing class and edited with much help from Ian and Christine. The form is called a sestina, which dictates the sestet/envoy form as well as the pattern of the end words of the lines. It was inspired by my short time in Chihuahua, MX, where very young Indian girls begged in the rich shopping district. The rich Latinos (those with more Spanish blood) ignored them.