Centripetal Motion


"I have heard the dark hearts
of the stones
that beat once in a lifetime."

- William Pitt Root

So, m'ijo, you want to leave San Bartolo Coyotepec.
You want to try your luck in the big city,
maybe cross to el norte, where everyone is rich.
You want to leave behind these dusty roads,
our casita of thatch and brick,
the goats to milk, hens to feed,
the pollitos criscrossing over your feet
as you stir black clay para tu papá.

So you want to become el pollito yourself
chirping for a sprinkle of grain,
following coyote's delusive trail
(a tuft of fur, the scent of piss,
chicken scratches and paw prints).
You better develop a sixth sense, m'ijo,
learn to see from every direction.
Coyote traps moonbeams in a steel cage,
weights it with the gnawed bones of many meals
and sends all the light to the bottom of the big river
so no one but the bone pickers will see him cross.
Yet whose sinew is his fill, m'ijo, whose bones his anchors?
Sometimes even God is amused by his tricks.

So you are tired of the curbside puesto,
of hawking the jarras, bowls, whistles and tazas
I have spun from the moistened black dust
de sangre Zapoteca y teirra Mixteca.
La culpa no es tua, m'ijo; I cannot blame you
for dreaming of paved streets and tiled floors,
to once eat a meal whose blood has not dried
        under your fingernails.

Sí, en la madrugada, te puedes ir. Que te vayas con Dios.
But now, in this afternoon's yellow light,
some sit,   curve your feet around the disk
        beneath the shallow cupped stone
and spin   spin the stone, m'ijo
feel the wight of Oaxacan black earth
    fall upon the center of motion,
dip your hands into water, slip them to the unshaped clay.

Become blind, m'ijo, close your hungry eyes and trace
the hollows you will fill,    finger the edge of air.
Spin the stone faster   resist gravity  lift up, up.
         Feel the energy passing from flesh
to the thousand-year-old field
where I first gathered the black barro of Oaxaca,
where a boy lifted the space
         that spilled into ledges,
pressed soft caves and whirled
balance into the blooming vessel,
my five-year-old hands placed over my mother's
and her mother's    and hers    and hers.

Spin with me this jarra, m'ijo, and then you may go
north past the gray riverbank of clay,
through the forests once blued by quetzal flight,
over the Oaxacan hills hewn of red, white, green stone.
       Pero no te olvides, m'ijo,
          to kneel before the dead at Monte Albán.
Pray. Burn copal in this shallow black bowl. Listen.
Some day their ghosts will lead you back
from the land of milk and honey.

- Brenda Cárdenas