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I must humbly admit that I was only reminded of the upcoming 21/12/12 by my poet colleague’s post, “Cerro de las Mesas” at Gavriel’s Muse, which I highly encourage you to read, along with his other fine work. He and I share an interest

"The Mexican Saga" is available as an e-book, and you can peek inside here.

“The Mexican Saga” is available as an e-book, and you can peek inside here.

in things shamanic, and it was his Facebook School of Poetry that gave me the space and opportunity to write “The Mexican Saga: A Poetic Journey through the 20-Count”, now published and available through Amazon.com and other e-booksellers.

About a year ago, I began a second poetic series on the pre-Maya, which I’m posting here. The difference between “The Mexican Saga” and “Quinteducation” is that I could never continue with the latter. I don’t know why; I like the story, but there were obviously things I hadn’t worked out. I’ve decided, in the spirit of the season–i.e., the upcoming conclusion to the Maya Long Count calendar–to post it here. Perhaps it’s meant to cliffhang. The pre-Columbian civilizations did enjoy playing with our need for tidy endings. Whatever the cause, I offer it here and hope you enjoy.

This-half Teachings

In the school where wolves fed upon
the sickened and the old, and decay was an arc
of a vivante circle that fed and encouraged the whole
of us, we learned from the time we could walk to count by fives.

Zero and One are the starting pair. We drew them in sand with fingers
and toes, on walls with sticks we’d ash-blackened ourselves, and
on ceilings with seed pods that squirted…oval with resting line inside—
zero—and resting line all on its own—one—with stinky pink juice.

All begins from no thing, said our teacher who was also a chef,
conception from the preconceived, and all true change of form
requires—he could never say this without laughing—a soup
stage. He showed us the liquid inside a cocoon that preconceives
the butterfly. I only threw up that once.

A weaver from Xolotl taught us the transit curve of Five
with a mobile loom strapped to her belly. You are the source
and the center to and from which all that is, travels. You and you
and you and you, she said to seventeen immobile crosslegged little
centers. Something clicked behind my eyeballs when she spoke to mine.

Creation’s threads arrive clear and colourless, but they leave you—she
tugged at the air, which made our bellies itch—dyed and twisted. Nut brown
fingers shuttle-danced through crimson threads and gold while the weaver
wove-sang her lessons. Very few, almost zero, care to keep their knotted
mess when Death displays it. And with that, she pulled out an obsidian blade,
sliced off what looked like a perfect geometric tapestry and threw it—


—into the nearby cooking fire where Chef was stirring a cauldron of his famous
red pepper scampi, rumoured to be the knuckles of last year’s unsuccessful
counters by five.

At Ten, we meet the enemy. Twice five, the old priest called it, so fearful of the
demonic doubling, he wore a bat skin hat to ward off its effects. Humanity
has been choked off, he whispered, bluish lips curled, by a foreign
installation intent on controlling our—he made a vague gesture that I took
to mean evacuation habits. My grandma boils acacia root for that,
I told Seven Sweet Cherry beside me.


The palm frond walls of the school flew outward, impressing everyone
but me upon whom the priest had fixed his glare. Have you no shame?
Are you not disturbed that your falsely occupied cranial bowl impedes the
flow of thought and emotion? That you can never be free to think—

—and feel? And feel? And feel? He did not speak those last two words.
Something inside the lining of my eardrums reverberated them to the hollow
at the base of my throat and back again. I knew then that I disliked the priest;
with every twisted, rapidly discolouring thread of my belly, I disliked the man
in the bat leather hat.

I am not what I think
I am not what you think.
I am what I feel, what I feel, what I feel…

By day’s end, what I felt, what I felt, what I felt had reached the lining
of the eardrums of the school administrators who could map that sort of
thing, which they said demonstrated my innate understanding of Ten, the
petty tyranny of, earning me a coveted spot in the Other-half teachings
of the essential 20-count.

Grandma, that night, over acacia root tea
told me I should have kept my mouth shut.

…to be continued, said the poet hopefully, with no real assurance that continuation of this tale is possible, but that’s the trouble with “This-half teaching”. It is no friend of “Other-half teaching”, so we’ll have to see.

© Elaine Stirling, 2011