The astral priest believed it was time
to finally invoke an Aztec god;
He left his home and friends behind
to go to Tlaxcala on the day of the wind
to call Quetzalcoatl with bone flute and drum.
Then when Venus was rising before him
on a shattered stone ruin eight hundred years old,
he stood beside high columns engraved
with scenes from the lives of the gods, the moon
glinting occultly on onyx and gold.
His feathered cape and the jaguar mask
he wore began moving all on their own,
the eagle claws strapped to his wrists
were shaking with anger, with passion and pride.
The Lady of the Serpent Skirts
was chanting deep in the bowels of limestone caves,
and in the Hall of Smoking Mirrors
Tezcatlipoca took aim at the Sun.
Double-headed feathered serpents
coiled about the calendar stone,
and even the pavement on which he stood
rang with the spells of ancient wizards.
Then to his shock a flaring of lightning
leapt up his spine and burst in his brain
and then the hot fire assaulting his nerves
sent him convulsing with terror and joy.
The god was demanding, he urged the priest
to climb out of his skin and leap into flame,
to cook his heart well as a meal for the gods,
to break all his limits and surrender at once:
To waste not a second, but ride the tornado,
to seize the anaconda and tame it with a glance,
to penetrate flint with his fingers and eyes;
to enter volcanoes and dance on the boiling
magma within the Earth’s dark cleft;
to be at once an atom and star,
to see all Space as the Ground of Being,
to lose his senses and watch the world
With all thirteen heavens and nine hells
whirl into the fragments of Chaos,
and then to fall senseless into the abyss.
From somewhere out of the silence came drumming,
the drumming of shamans invoking spirits,
guardian spirits of wolves and crows
gathering ’round to aid the priest.
And then at last he knew whence the drumming,
just the rain pounding the roof of his skull.
Exhausted, he found shelter and lit a fire
and drifting off to sleep the flames
revealed the forms of Quetzalcoatl
doing battle with Tezcatlipoca:
Their warriors, the Eagle and the Jaguar Knights,
exchanged obsidian butterflies.
The feathers wafting in the wind
became the blood-red clouds at dawn.
A cool scented breeze caressed his neck.
Raindrops gleamed on a spider’s web,
Sunlight filled the turquoise sky.