This Is How It Began

BY VALERIE MARTÍNEZ

The cyclone leaves blood on the land—
hoof prints, imprints of heeled boots,
sounds twisting the tongue: caballo,
tierra, oro, alma, villa de santa fé.

 

We carry, burn, bury the dead.
Sometimes we must leave them
where they fell. Animals take them
into their mouths, cry out the sound
that forever haunts our dreams.

The maps dizzy us with shifting
boundaries. Cartographers burn
the night oil, labor into dawn,
and we are given new nation-names,
again. Their fingers ache as they draw
and smudge, erase, dry up pens.

Incalculable, what we want,
create, what we have lost.

Trappers, traders, cavvy boys,
misfits and mountain men
make the journey on horse,
in caravans, on the rutted road
from Missouri to Santa Fe.

Where the trail ends the square
begins auctions, food stands,
dry goods and games of chance.
The fuss of horses and burros
under heavy packs, men with maps,
their slaves and hangers-on.

From dirt to rut to cobblestone
to asphalt, foot and hoof,
to wagon wheel and hot black rubber.

How many leather mocs and petticoats,
how many hats have blown
and been chased
along these streets?

How many fingers on this map?

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