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© Paul Zarzyski. All rights reserved. These words may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

A CHRISTMAS TRIPTYCH FROM 51

 

1

Let’s finally—before our capacity for earnestness runs thin—talk animals. Wildlife?

Liz and I spent Christmas 2009 in Santa Fe. We attended, with great humility, the Animal Dance on Christmas eve at Nambe Pueblo and the Turtle Dance at San Juan Pueblo the following afternoon. I skipped mass as I have done now for the past twenty or more Christmases, but I’ve never felt closer to some kind of sanctity as I did witnessing the Nambe dancers, in full animal horn and hide, as well as plant (gourd rattle, pine bow, etc.) regalia appear up out of the top of the kiva. Elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, buffalo, and deer dancers all moving together to the haunting drumbeat, to this earth’s most organic, natural rhythms. Around and between the blazing farolitos and into the church—to bless it, Liz tells me, rather than to receive its blessing. During the Turtle Dance at San Juan, under what felt like the brightness of a July sun, the elders in their colorful wool blankets, the caciques overseeing the one-hundred-plus dancers, suddenly peered upward. We all, dancers included, followed their lead, and were graced by the sight of four eagles, three bald and one golden, circling high overhead. Big medicine, indeed. Most of the pueblo peoples being Christians, I don’t think they’d mind me suggesting that Saint Francis of Assisi sent his messengers to approve. I’ve had my photo taken with his bronze image, both in front of the cathedral in Santa Fe and in front of Rancho de Chimayo, one of our favorite restaurants and watering holes. The coda to the dance might sound oddly concocted, but after returning to Montana we watched the film Avatar. Two-and-a-half hours later we stepped out of the theater into yet one more otherworldly atmosphere, a heavy blizzard, which, lucky us, tempered what otherwise would’ve proved a rude re-entry. I drove us home into the blustery rural landscape, my face all but pressed against the windshield—jackrabbits, mule deer, and one magical, great horned owl swooping through the headlights. Thank you Saint Francis of Assisi and Richard Hugo for another opportunity to be “lost / in miles of land without people, without / one fear of being found.”

 

2

 

The Christmas Saguaro Soiree               (with Betsy Hagar)

            She decorates the cactus
            The way Great Grandma did
            This past year it grew
            Another arm or two
            She sips some warm mescal
            From a tiny Hopi bowl
            In the moonlight the saguaro
            Shines bright blue.

            It’s storming in Montana
            Where her lover rides
            That blue norther doesn’t know
            It’s Christmas Eve
            Not feeling one bit lonely
            She tinsels every spine
            Of the one and only sweetheart
            Who won’t leave.

                        The nectar of agave
                        Can spark a miracle
                        And suddenly all arms begin to sway
                        She celebrates God’s birthday
                        Peace and love on earth
                        With a waltz at the saguaro soiree.

            A joyful coyote carol
            Drifts down the old arroyo
            The red chili lights are strung out
            Just like notes
            Another sip of mescal
            And then she’ll raise the angel
            First she danced around that cactus
            Now she floats.

            The magic land of cactus
            Will soothe her broken heart
            May the icy snowdrifts
            Do the same for him
            From rimrock to adobe
            The Guadalupe sings
            “Tis the season we should wish
            Good will toward men.”

                        The nectar of agave
                        Can spark a miracle
                        And suddenly all arms begin to sway
                        She celebrates God’s birthday
                        Peace and love on earth
                        With a waltz at the saguaro soiree.

                        She’s dancing with the old ones
                        Romancing with the earth
                        In the arms of the saguaro soiree.           

 

[listen to the track on SoundCloud]


3

 

Watching the Sun Set over Santa Fe—
City of Holy Faith

We could praise this sky with names of fruit—
orange, apricot, plum—paint it ocher, rouge, perse,
call it the palette of Georgia O’Keeffe. We could
liken these textural hues of cumulus
to pink gingham, tamarisk, chamisa, chenille.

But tonight we pay tribute to flesh,
to vascular tissue. We marvel at
the surge of blood cells, microscopic
within sheer capillaries—the undulant
running of the bulls through narrow streets
in Pamplona. We behold the heat and tremor,
how hemoglobin sparks a bonfire of muscle,
how fibers flame to crimson pinnacles, and then
we witness the quick swoop
accelerating toward ash-
drab residue we shudder
to believe is the soul. I stare at you
in desperation, the day’s last remnant
dissolving into once-blue irises of your eyes.

If lucky, we’ll embrace a lifetime
trilogy of sunsets this vital—if blessed,
a church spire will grace one of those twilights,
and if, on the eve that steeple appears, we harbor
a tint of what’s eternal, we’ll sail
with someone we’ll love beyond youth,
sail by moonless faith until sunrise.

                                    For Elizabeth

 


HAPPY HOLIDAYS
PEACE AND LOVE

 

© Paul Zarzyski, 2011-15
created 12.12.11