83 – Changeling

I don’t know! Mythologizing, I guess. Got a head full of bad machinery here, and sometimes it spits out intense imagery that doesn’t come with an explanation. It’s like… my brain has a theater in it, with its own tiny troupe of actors who cobble together stories out of the memories and scraps they have to hand. Every time they come up with a new combination, I get excited, but all of the parts are as old as dirt – I’ve seen that dress in a thousand shows, that man appears in every story I write, that’s the same song they were playing last week only now it’s the soundtrack to a different scene. And in this metaphor, I don’t get a program – my brain kicks out some new vaudeville performance stitched together out of childhood scenes, memories, dreams, movies, video games, and it expects me to guess what all of it is supposed to mean together, divine some kind of novel insight or interesting plot from it.

So this is a Frankenstein’s monster that started with the corpse of the Mayan calendar I have hanging on my wall, a black-on-black midnight relief of a young man kneeling over a supine woman under the calendar’s grinning face. My grandma lives in Mexico and I have a lot of this kind of thing lying around as a result – little bits of touristy crap I thought was amusingly weird, and a lot of native art and toys, usually bought off a kid who threw a rope as thick as his thigh across the highway to make the cars slow down. (No joke, they’re everywhere in Quintana Roo; they’re called topes. People stand by them and sell things to the folks driving by. If they’re selling fruit or honey or bread – anything you can eat that isn’t branded – buy it, it’s fucking fantastic.)

A couple of years ago, they unearthed a hitherto unsuspected tunnel and chamber underneath Teotihuacán, a major Mayan ruin near Mexico City. This is the story I read about it at the time; it mentions that the tunnel runs underneath one of the temples for about 330 feet, and the people who built it studded the roof and walls with pyrite – fool’s gold. With a little light, it’s like standing in a starfield down there, deep under the ground. I love that image. I hope someday after they’ve finished excavating the place, I can see it. So I guess that’s this sonnet – some vaguely-sourced Mayan imagery that I had to force a dramatic fairy-tale plot onto, because of who I am as a person.

“Caliban,” June 2006

A young man bows his head beneath the earth.
He knows he’ll never see the sun again.
They’ll only find his bones and jewelry when
this tomb is broken by his daughter’s birth.

He paces up and down the midnight hall,
he counts the stars embedded in the roof,
invents constellations that give him proof
that his child will cause the sun to fall.

All the while, locked inside her chamber,
the infant sings and grows, and grows and sings.
She whispers to her father’s corpse about
the perfect world she no longer remembers,
whispers, “Try to imagine having wings…
try to imagine really getting out.”

Check out the rest of the 100 Sonnets

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