Jimmy Santiago Baca

(2 January 1952 / Santa Fe, New Mexico)

Matanza to Welcome Spring


for Pat and Victorio

Spread eagle sheep legs wide,
wire hooves to shed beams,
and sink blade in neck wool,
’til the gray eyes drain of life
like cold pure water
from a tin pail.
(It kicked, choking on nasal blood,
liquid gasping coughs
spattered blood over me.)
Slit down belly, scalp rug-wool
skin away, pinch wool back
with blade to pink flesh, ssst ssst ssst
inch by inch, then I sling
whole carcass in bloody spray over fence.
(Close to its face, I swear
it gift-heaved a last breath
from its soft black nose
and warmed my nostril hairs
as I sniffed the dark smell
of its death.)
Mesquite in hole
boils water in the iron cauldron
which steam-cooks
hind quarters
on grill across cauldron.

Tonight I invite men and women
con duende,
who take a night in life
and forge it into iron
in the fire of their vision.
Aragon has gone
to the river to play his drum.
I hear the deep pom pom pom.
Round bonfire
Alicia squats, ruffles sheaf of poems,
while Alejandro tunes guitar.
Shadows dance round
stones that edge the fire.
(In Alejandro’s boot
a knife hilt glimmers.)
Their teeth gleam grease juice
(as do those of the children, who play
in the dark behind us).
There is fear
in the horse’s eye
corralled nearby.
(Hear the drum on the Río Grande.
Boom pom boom pom....)
Blood sizzles,
moist alfalfa in the air,
bats flit above the flames.
I toss a gleaming bone to spirits
in the orchard,
and Gonzales yells,
with his old earthen voice,
“Play, hombre, �Canta, mujer! Sing!
Sing the way the old ones sang!”

Tonight life is
lust
death
hunger
violence
innocence
sweetness
honor
hard work
and tomorrow I will go
to church.
But tonight
I leap into
impulse, instinct,
into the burning
of
this moment.

(I commit myself! One moment to the next
I am chasm jumper and silence is
a blue fire on my papery soul. I construct
out of nothing. I am air, am labyrinth,
place with no entry or exit,
am a smoking mirror.

Commit myself! Storms stroke my heart
and destroy its neat furrows.
My words are mule teams,
that loosen, pound, hurl, out and up,
and leave me standing in the open, naked,
with star flame roar, life opening. . . .

Commit myself!)

Hear the two hands
bleed along the river beating
drumskins,
deep sounds of thu-uba,
of magic, despair, joy,
emotions trance-weave through sound,
thumba, thumba, thumba.
Follow drum,
thumba thumba thumba,
umba umba umba
ba-ba ba-ba
thumba thumba thumba,
hear hearts mate with earth
in song,
spiral toward death
in its long thuuumbaa,
toward life again
in ba-ba ba-ba.

The sound is stain on purity,
is cry of broken thing,
drum does not wither beneath bed,
but rises heart
into newness around us,
all around us,
come follow Follow the drum,
thumba thumba thumba
ba—ba—ba
thumba thumba thumba
ba—ba—ba,

of living!

Submitted: Monday, January 02, 2012

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