Una Vision del Futuro, Sin Titulo
by Zev Gottdiener
First there is a mountain/then there is no mountain/then there is!
Man does not speak because he thinks; he thinks because he speaks. Or rather, speaking is no different than thinking: to speak is to think.
You’re sitting in a restaurant with a dirt floor and low arched ceiling made of Adobe and Guasimilla beams. The walls are Barro and curve around the circular roof creating an illusion of closeness and continual change. Across from you is the skull of Poncho Villa, previously pilfered from the Tomb of the Skull and Bones Society in New Haven, CT by the inventor of the myth-machine, Rocking Joaquin Ayala. It’s sitting on the table, not floating, though oddly with a formal table setting and creased cloth napkin of burnt clay. The dark of the eyeholes swimming up at you makes you queasy for a moment, but then the waiter comes to ask tell you what the menu is.
Today, we have a six kilo Curvina Blanca that although previously frozen last night by the guy whose name sounds like tit (who was in a rush from an abundance of everything as he turned out his nets through the night and laid it up on ice because he just didn’t have anywhere else to put it) is of superb quality and comes with three free lobsters because you’re a likable guy and it’s expensive. Even for a gringo like you. It’s prepared sarandeado style and there’s absolutely no way you can finish it yourself, so invite the traveling Wixárika couple to dine with you. Or not.
The waiter leaves and it’s just you and Poncho’s abandoned brain bucket sitting at the festively dressed table with its skirts of red fringe brushing against your bare legs. You feel like the skull is about to speak, and you randomly think about asking it to divulge the exact location of the secret gold hoard located near La Cueva de Diablo on the Cerrito de la Santa Cruz in the vicinity of Ojinaga. You think twice, because you realize this would be bringing up a period in his life that he may look back on with some umbrage or sensitivity. This would be shortly after his defeat at Celaya by Obregon, and in a period when Hollywood and the American media had him caught in its anthracite gaze. You remember that at one point he staged battles for visiting cameras, and would ham for the photojournalists. What you really want to ask him is what it was like to drive that black Roadster; whew, imagine it yah jackass! All that performance horse (or burro) luxury under the hood must have made him feel good. Maybe not.
He received a 10,000 hectare estate when he retired, eventually institutionalizing agrarian measures in an effort to create a Mexico fashioned to his vision. Even so, he probably feels strange about racing the gauntlet from landless peon to rich and powerful. Yet, he balled that Roadster from his ranch to through the streets of Parral, enough so that’s where they got him with the guns, eventually. Oddly then that you would be guested to sit across from that all so important appendage, which was robbed from his tomb three years after his death by an American mercenary on retainer for a macabre Chicago millionaire. I guess a million was a lot back then. Or enough.
You love a good story, but hate conspiracy, so it doesn’t matter much if Emil Holmdahl was the grave robber, if he was a pre CIA US-agent, or if the retainer was Prescott Bush. There’s always the microfiche elements of history in which it is easy for some to loose themselves, but you are a child born of the moment. For the comfortable, there’s even a New Yorker article out there for yah. You’re never very satisfied, so even Ernesto Cienfuegos’ plea from the voice of Aztlan falls on near deaf ears, because here is the skull in front of you. It could be a fake. Or not.
You decide not to tempt any of the discursive avenues skittering around in your head, because you don’t want to overdo it and sound mensa, especially since you’ve had a bad case of foot in mouth disease lately: una ves al año, no se daño. Una vez cada rato, esta chinga el aparato. You can’t risk the hairy ape palms of the benign conversationalist, the Burroughsian mollusk-man- horror languidly ejaculating chitenous effluvia into the stifling air where it hangs phosphorescent, spelling out the names of your failed loves in arching dream-gauze.
You decide to leave the legends aside and regress to the historical meat and potatoes; the fact that Villa’s attack on Columbus remains the second military attack on U.S.A. soil since 1812. Big shoes big feet, and you’re about to ask when the skull starts in with its own voice, but you can’t call it talking; it’s more akin to the magic grandma-thing in I Sing The Body Electric [Ray, not Walt]. Maybe Not.
Desire construes the walls of illusion:
a tract, a house, a landed kind.
A divided length of sprouted green
between which marks the separate states
of a double force – negative outpour
of fluid hate, in place of communal understanding.
Freedom was never a thing to be rewarded to
people. Only thieves reward only dust.
I’ve traveled with assassins to the brink of horse lands.
You have never seen my face, but think you know me.
I tried to wrap my head back up in coarse linen,
After the war when we road hard and shot true.
I tried to remake the world under my own name,
That’s how big I was, how strong and strange
Enough to be a threat. Enough to kill away.
Enough to take from rest and grave and sleep
To talk amongst the pale travelers again,
To answer their questions about what they’ve lost.
Then silence again and you wonder if you heard it at all. Instantly it’s vanishing like a dream from sleep and you’re fearful. All of a sudden you can’t bear the thought of losing the words to the air or space in time between who you were and are now. Or not. Or it never happened. You are an unsatisfactory shifting in your chair, continuous morphing cellophane outline of a pitiful churl. “Here you go again with the making of mistakes!” rings out in your head in the tune of a yiddisha helfin and you box your own ears in defiance. Red and puffy, eyes stinging, and here goes the skull again:
The Porfirato, the masons, cartographers, the Maps of New Spain, haciendas, I still remember these things though they have no meaning. What remains with feeling are small things: my mother, my friends, lovers, compañeros, and solders. I remember the land of my birth, how the seasons changed, and how the taste of good things lingers on the tongue. Sometimes I feel my body, though it’s long gone. The twitch of a limb not there – so long dynamic! How I moved. How graceful flew my carriage carried on horseback to the front of the fray. Jo! For the low slung riders poised with pistols. Jo! For their mounts who brayed not from the muzzle flash or the roiling boom of the shells. Their coats would glisten, misted with blood, casting diamond glances back at you through the prismatic sunlight captured on the ruby spheroids. Oh, you will never know…
The waiter arrives with an iced carafe of tejuino followed by a trio of pneumatic serving drones whose skin ripples over their wire core musculature like colloidal silver in a basin of infected water. The platters they carried bore ones senses immediately to Xanadu, and you could smell the sacred river and the sunless sea in the steam rising off the fish, the onion, the chile, the grilled nopal, the fried beans, and the roasted squash. The tortillas come alone, swathed in a gossamer-lined warmer of volcanic rock, and as you salt the first the waiter informs you that they were pressed between two heated stones. The drones arrange it all with enough flourish to make you cry, and so aromatic you do shed a stray tear though the skull remains impassive. It may be able to sense something of the marvels before you. Or not.
The Huichol arrive dressed in their finery that depicts the twins, the hikuri, the three sisters, and like their fame seem to care almost nothing for your world. Still, you believe you’ll be picking up the check, so you afford them a little contempt, even though they’ll turn out to be grateful in ways that impress the worst cynic hiding in your heart. You recant, realizing they’re fragments of los guachichiles, who long ago departed from the place where los cuates made battle, or the first people came from below up-out into this world, for this cycle. You, who have no homeland like they. Maybe not.
You stare at the skull, into it, and think about where you are from. Your land images another manifestation of power, in buildings towering over each other, or squashed into squares along grid-work plots of mass gathering spiraling out into the hinterlands. Majestic actuations of angular angelic telemetry, stretching the Icarus hand into the doughy midsection of our ecology’s entropic end-truth. You’ve made it seem like home. You are comfortable there, adjusted to the noise-hum of that particular gathering phenomenon that centralizes while belying its own distinction as central to that-which-is-outside. You live in a city, don’t or not in a city, which never was anything than moving through the permutations of city signification. With heartland being homeland, and comfortable here with your new acquaintances, you feel at home with all traces of the uncanny at bay. That’s the bombshell: langue and parole: a long journey up and out of where you are. Speaking mouths of a long story in which you seem to have part.Tags: Bradbury, Desire, Food, Gottdiener, History, Mexico, Power, Skull, Travel, Zev, Zev Gottdiener