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Matanza To Welcome Spring - Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca (Jimmy Santiago Baca)

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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! Jimmy Santiago Baca

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