Monday, October 31


I grew up in the desert scrub with my sisters all around, drank the cold light of the stars like water in winter, grew tall and strong. I took up the pen at twelve and tore songs out of my heart like leaves from my sisters, leaves we would twist and knot into thread and clothing and homes. Women dressed properly, then, tying their headdresses in gaudy knots, and made pulque in the shelter of rocky overhangs.

I could not.  I tore at the earth and watered fields of doomed flowers with droplets flung from bloody fingernails. I cried out to Xochipilli Chicomexochitl with every breath I took, and he took notice. He followed me down into the hardpan waste and kissed my scars and open wounds, the scraped flesh quivering under his painted lips like the great serpent, rising in flame from under the world.

"Mayahuel," he sang to me, "one night you will bear fruit and disappear into the earth, and all the world will mourn the loss of my favorite poet." His singing melted my bones like boiling chocoatl and we were fallen down onto the ground again, lost in the night all around us, snarling and tearing at each other like jaguars.

I gave birth to many daughters and suckled them, fitting delicate words into the puzzle of strict meter all the while. My flower prince went singing into the night, the songs I made for him sweet on his lips like the aguamiel in my heart. My children went out into the desert scrub to drink the cold light of the stars like water in winter, and I began to lose my language. I wrote in rhyme and in free verse, hymns and platitudes and holy beckoning. I let blood from my wrists in the hopes that it would sing in the silence, but it fell flat to the earth and sluggishly dried, still refusing to speak.

I churned within, seeking aubade or threnody, wailing couplets, unrecognized, into the dust storms blowing through our desolate home. I began to diminish.

One day, when the sun blazed down, drying the shine from my thick black hair, I lay flat on the ground. I pressed my scarred hands into the red dust and began to stroke pictures of the words I still wanted to sing. I could no longer rhyme, could no longer call up jewel-like painted miniatures from the arid scrub, the wizened twigs that were all the words left to me. I turned on my side and wept bloody tears, all the moisture my body still contained flowing into the dust, sticking to my burning skin.  I gave up.

The earth rose up around me like an embrace, its benevolent chill soothing my blackened flesh. I could not sing its praises, nor tell it my story, nor even weep. My body drifted deeper with every hour, my head and hair pressing out of the ground like my doomed gardens bearing fruit at last. I was dry of all meaning, drained of all my life's work, and I was alone.

When Mictecacihuatl rose from the mud beside my face, her flayed bones sheltered me from the heat of the sun, and I saw her jaw open to devour the light. I could not say, then, why it was so beautiful. No matter how hard I tried, I could no longer wrap my tongue around the iambic pentameter of the comfort of darkness, standing tall against the dreadful light.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Indie Adams challenged me with "No matter how hard I tried, I still couldn't get my head around iambic pentameter" and I challenged Lance with "The apothecary's daughter."