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Issue 21, Poesía, Featured | October 2017

     

Offering for Your Altar

Perfect bowl of mandarins, tall vase of Alcatraz,
strings of roasted chiles draped from mesquite beams.

A family table cut from a single tree. Monica, like many Swiss,
has brought her spotless hospitality to this inhospitable desert.

Real de Catorce shines like gold in the almost-winter skies, and that light
sinks through the window to land on three sturdy knives.

The Huichols are out on cermonial duties today. She points to the casitas
she has built on her land as we walk a path through tall corn

to the cabin by the pond where I will stay. It’s November first
and preparations have begun for Dia de Los Muertos.

Wreaths of marigolds, salt, tequila and sugared skulls.
Her small, candled altar is tucked behind a sack of beans.

She pours me a chamomile tea and looks out at the glowing canyon wall,
then lets her head fall to the table, the tree. Her two year-old son

drowned last spring. Her husband, who only looked away
for a moment, is in Bern, unable to bear himself or his wife.

Los Huicholes will be coming back, she says.
She is bone-thin, circles of ash float beneath her eyes. The sun

collapses behind the mountains, and the room grows cold.
I walk to my cabin along the darkening path, pass the pond,

now covered in leaves, wish her husband and son peace.
May los Huicholes return soon, with a balsam for her grief.
Offering for Your Altar