Now that you have gone beyond 70, your eyesight is poor and your hearing is even worse. It’s a conundrum and like a mask it gives rise to unfamiliar motions. There they are, your consorts in poetry where your words are mine, and mine yours. You are as if tethered in a hand-made lapstrake double-ender wooden boat meant for inland waters. When the strake swells, the inner surfaces swell inward, loosening the lashing, letting the overlapping slats swell and slide sideways, but you are ignorant of such intricate things and instead you float your boat through the sky led by an ancient Sumerian bird with the body of an eagle and a head of a lion. According to legend this giant bird stole the Tablet of Destinies. His scream can make the whole world shake. At last you recognize yourself as part of the unreal and unusual.
Once you owned a precious emerald green jade stone ring, set in 18 karat gold. You were barely twenty. Your then Dutch-Indonesian father-in-law had smuggled the ring and other jewels into America during Suharto’s dictatorship. He told his Americanized sons to sell the jewels. Daily, he sat on a wooden chair like a stained tea cup on a wobbly table, white V-necked undershirt, tropical shorts, under the dilapidated porch roof of your sister in law’s house in Pasadena. He smoked hand-rolled Douwe Egberts tabak, one after another, waiting for his meals to be cooked and served. He waited for the money to roll into his pockets. Nothing happened. Eventually heartbroken and poor he left. His sons were ashamed. The emerald green stone fell out of the gold setting, you were guilty of an empty mounting.
The cooked flesh is raw, tears stream over blood, not yet burnt. The mother does not care if the razor-sharp knife freezes in a heartbeat and when slowness of yesterday or the day before becomes all the same. She does not shudder when hard rain splits unstable earth and loosens up your granite stones buried deep inside. You do not care if she forgives you when your mouth opens and closes. You do not weep when birthday ribbons in your eyelids turn emerald green to prevent spying eyes from seeing you. There is nothing but this: wherever you go, you finger your pearls leaving tiny holes in your delicate skin.
He gave you a torrent of words you did not understand and asked “¿De dónde es usted? “Washington” you said. When the machete hit sharply against the first willow branch, the old man had taken over, carefully saying “Washington”, “Washington” with each aimed whack. It was all over for the willow limbs stroking silver wires into the wind, weeping scents of mandarinas, black walnut, sweet jasmine and bamboo gone wild. When the willow tree was finally stripped, a 3-inch black moth, wings spread, lit into your house. He moved inch by inch along the wall, like a magician’s black cape never stuttering. The moth made me nervous like the breeze in the willows stroking mal aire, a bad wind of the night.
You tried to feed him, carefully prepared bites of sweets. His smart phone took pictures, of nothing. You used his umbrella to pick up the food mess he had missed. The worst thing he said was “uncertainty”. The word flows fast, you do not know what will come next, a small judgment, fear in your eyes. Snap, click, click. He used your smartphone as a diary and whispered, the world is watching you, you may need to defend your nonsense.
Before you woke up this morning a voice said: Name your house in the Andes. You had wanted to call it La Casa del Condor, but it sounded too grand, pretentious. The voice insisted: it is La Casa del Condor. Your roof has large wingspans. Separated with glass on both sides of its peak, it is like the long body of a transparent bird through which you see blue sky and changes of the night. Your Andean roof is ready for takeoff, slow, cumbersome, lifting its weight until it can catch the high winds and soar for half an hour or more. without once flapping its wings, bridging you to other realms, perhaps all the way to the Milky-Way as the Incans once believed. She said, name your house, you have no breath, you have no long view, you are limited to what is in front of you.
When it comes to folding into the Condor, with its sharp eyesight navigating between the world of the living and the dead, my words simply become black fixed images on white paper. My old life is now broken under me.
Two women folded and unfolded embroidered cloths for the altar, a little to the left, a little to the right, spotless white, an extra fold for Jesus and Maria, her picture framed under glass, cleaned every time a parishioner touched or kissed her. It took even longer to set up the display in front of the black Madonna high above the altar, she was small with a hooped dress. She had been repeatedly stolen by a padre from a nearby monastery who did not wish to go to church every day. He had kept her near him and prayed endlessly. However, he could not cross the door sill of the church unless he carried her back. It’s a restless church, no one quite knows what the right spot is for worship.