Above Hukte Ajaw’s court where the air stinks
of rotting flesh and rubber, darkest night of the year,
the sky is potent with cold.
Our astronomers fix the time of sacrifice,
time for the judge’s sharp whistles, the slam
as the ball, stuffed with the brains of the dead,
ricochets against sloping stone.
Once through the ring is all there is.
You’ve practiced your whole life for this loser’s joke –
costumed, absurdly masked, belt packed
with home-spun rags. Childless, you ape pregnancy,
waddling wide-legged, teasing your tongue
in the scent of sausages and fried maize, challenging
to laughter the chit-chat of families with no son or daughter
in the center, prattle of people with nothing,
in this moment, to lose. The regent is planted
on his dais, legs firm and upright like two pillars.
His flags wilt on the arms behind him
in the only world that matters, the only world
you know. And when his minions have cut
your heart from your body, the steam of it rising
in the mythic air as they pass it from mouth to mouth,
when your skull has rolled down the chiseled steps,
the crowd cheered and scuttled to their dim hovels, turned on television,
the forest stretches its vines to cover those who loved you,
who carved your name on a rock.
Tiresias in his youth is an uneasy figure.
Blunt and showy, with one sun-dark eye,
mask pitched together for a sage part, he casts stones
where none can read them; he files sharp
the horns of mercy.
The Janitor summons us from a squat on the playground.
You should have heard our lot, speaking Greek.
He tenders a prophecy, and demonstrates with a clean cut.
What’s left rises to the air in a scatter of feathers.
Stare at him straight, you’re dead.