That day, some years ago, time was a door. Late afternoon sprawled
in corners below jacaranda blossoms, all purple and full.
The sky was blue falling out from heavenly sleep.
We stood in the cell of a convent in the stone city and sang
to overlooked ghosts of flayed nuns; we walked
a round chamber painted pure without windows.
At the door of the moment, a Mayan man chanted alelujas,
polishing the lapses and coming loss of his country,
but keeping each syllable sumptuous. We followed behind,
step to his step, our voices in touch with rucked prayers
in the sequence of worldly peace, splatters of heat. Calling,
we placed notes as echo that choired the circular wall.
When later, we wound across carpets
of crosses through ten shades of lady’s-slipper and dried palm leaves
set in wooden boats, in a paradox of caution and destination, we learned
some of the ribs of the old city’s secrets—its ruins
and gold, fountains and colored sawdust. The guide pointed out
Agua, Acatenango and Fuego, all of them silent
for now. Consider a city vectored
by volcanic mudflow from these possible peaks.
Consider the evident strength of a burst and the smoke
and ash. Then, between the stone and the sky, the hands
of nuns who once lived in that convent, clutching straw pillows and bending
to lamentation, the weight of their prayer, the continuous
volatile steam, rolling and foraging whatever was precious.
At that point, you will know every respectable sorrow, the mad dough
of the land, the enclosure and the protection we felt that day
despite our passage through currents, avalanches, vents.
Guatemela Volcano’s Death Toll, Now at 65, is Likely to Rise [New York Times]
Lauren Camp is the author of three books, including One Hundred Hungers (Tupelo Press), finalist for the Arab American Book Award and winner of the Dorset Prize. Her poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Slice, Ecotone, Boston Review, The Missing Slate and elsewhere. A 2018 Visiting Scholar/Poet for the Mayo Clinic (MN) and the recipient of a Black Earth Institute Fellowship, she lives and teaches in New Mexico.
Photograph by Caitlin Wynne.