Saturday, October 16, 2010

At Teotihuacan

Piramide de la Luna 072006

At Teotihuacan

Dipping in and out of sleep
like a duck grazing under ruffled water,
nodding back and forth
in the space between two worlds.

A line beneath two dots is the number seven;
a wall of stone skulls records the passing of years.
Down twining runs of brick the effluvium of a great city
circles outward and away.

Snakes and feathers
are beauty and eternity.
Circles are mountains, and
the serpent’s head may speak
when the fires burn again.

A square headed figure like a bench
holds in thick fingers
a bowl for the god to drink
a sip of blood.

Skulls ridiculous and grave,
skulls to make Hamlet think again,
skulls mounted on rods
for storage.
Skulls crushed and painstakingly reassembled
for our edification.
All empty bottles, bent cans,
rotting in the great temporal gutter.

The gods are not upright
but crouched like stumps,
fat half-melted beings immutable and complex,
full of killing detail and dangerous eyes.
One can offend them merely by living,
leaving only one recourse.

January, 1988

Teotihuacan " an enormous archaeological site in the Basin of Mexico, just 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, containing some of the largest pyramidal structures built in the pre-Columbian Americas. Apart from the pyramidal structures, Teotihuacan is also known for its large residential complexes, the Avenue of the Dead, and numerous colorful, well-preserved murals..The city is thought to have been established around 100 BC and...may have lasted until sometime between the 7th and 8th centuries AD. At its zenith, perhaps in the first half of the 1st millennium AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. At this time it may have had more than 200,000 inhabitants, placing it among the largest cities of the world in this period..."~wikipedia

Header photo: Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan, Mexico, 
By Gorgo  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. "A wall of stone skulls"
    Was there indeed a wall of skulls there?

    Rather a melodramatic narrative, but good pictures.

    This poem also covers impressions of a visit I made to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City. (Well worth a virtual or real life tour.) Some evocative images here:

  3. I can smell the dankness, the rotting. My favorite line? "Skulls to make Hamlet think again."

    Welcome to the Mag!

  4. "...the picture prompt reminded me of the gods who live at Teotihuacan."
    Which I tried to climb once -- whew!

  5. The imagery in your Magpie is magnificent! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  6. I really enjoyed your poem. I love the line "Down twining runs of brick the effluvium of a great city." It really paints a picture of a city by involving all the senses.

  7. What a powerful impression this makes. I'm also glad I live today and not where these skulls were.

  8. Kind of exotic and very mysterious a wonderful read!

  9. "Skulls crushed and painstakingly reassembled
    For our edification," fantastic line that displays what societies do, dissecting one other until there is no one else to dissect and ultimately becoming the sacrificed....very well written....bkm

  10. Thanks much BwA.

    @bkm indeed, dissecting and discarding into the temporal gutter as if the mystery is that easy. Really enjoyed your work on spotlight today. Thanks v. much for taking the time to come by.

  11. wow, such imagery and haunting descriptions!

  12. Fantastic - ah, the fickleness of gods

  13. Well posed! Your poem is lovely - brings back a lot of memories...


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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