2 August · Hotel Maria Cristina

Sound of a t.v. draws us to the news
uniform'd men unload
plastic body bags from a military helicopter–

Cantares Mexicano
Thumbing through
Miguel León-Portilla's book,
account of a
Nahuatl manuscript housed in the National Library
Poets are there referred to as
    "forgers of song"
& declared to inhabit the flower world–world of charm'd verse–

    They shall not wither, my flowers
    They shall not cease, my songs

In 1490 lord Tecayehuatzin, prince of Huexotzinco, convenes a meeting of poets–masters of song–from all over the region. He sets out mats in his orchard, under shady ahuehuete trees. The poets pass tobacco and foaming terracotta mugs of chocolate. Their conversation survives, preserved in a single colorful manuscript inscribed on parchment of beaten bark. Tecayehuatzin asks his guests to speculate on the origins of flowers & song. It is a curious compound metaphor in Nahuatl–León-Portilla explains it as "flowers-and-song"–a single intricate term denoting the luminous sphere of poetry.

Is it possible, inquires Lord T, by the use of flowers & song, to encounter true words on earth? to meet with some restful emotion that endures? or is it human fate to vanish, the brief taste of a good song all you can hope for, and that vanishing too–?

Grizzled poet Ayocuan expells smoke through both nostrils & after a long period of silence declares his belief that flowers & songs are gifts of the gods. Where they originally come from is anyone's guess. And no, it is beyond his power to say whether they survive in the world-after-death.

    Will I have to go like the flowers that perish?
    Will my name mean nothing on earth?

Others in the company–the pragmatists–insist we inhabit a perishable world, there exists no evidence that anything survives past our lifetimes. Only flowers & song, they suggest, can dispel our innate sadness.

Lord Xayacamach of Tlaxcala likens flowers & song to magic mushrooms gathered in the mountains. A reliable technique to intoxicate the heart, to forget human grief in a fabulous hallucinatory world that tastes more real than everyday life. But ah, when the mushrooms wear off, when the fantastic world fades and the contours of daily existence emerge once again–one returns to oneself, empty, restless, disconsolate.

Lord T. finally closes the refined philosophical gathering. He thanks his guests, passes out small gifts of appreciation, and as the final comment falls to him asserts that flowers & song–if they cannot bring true words to earth or resolve the troubling question of what survives into the next world–at least make possible the reunion of cherished friends. And perhaps that's enough. Everyone shares a last quiet cup of chocolate as crepuscular shadows lengthen beneath the ahuehuete trees.

Another day in the flower world has passed.

Andrew Schelling | Teotihuacan
Contents | Mudlark No. 9