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~~a trilogy of glosas, concluded~~

The jaguar brushed leaves
with his phosphorescent absence,
the puma speeds through bracken
like devouring fire.

—from “Some Beasts”, Pablo Neruda,
in his epic Canto General,
translation by Waldeen


Not long ago, I found a strange map
in the ruins of a Maracaibo mansion,
the corners held down with rough-cut rubies
round and plump as duck eggs. Palimpsests
throbbed like blue-black veins across the chart—
illegible, unscarred by zealots and thieves.
I was told by the raggedy viejo who sleeps
underneath that the map and her routes
can be viewed by whoever believes
the jaguar brushed leaves

with her tail and the weasely dictator fell.
Claims such as these, they never sit well
with the rushed and the rational. Being neither
that day, I asked the old man to explain.
Once a year, he said, when defenses
deflate, humankind’s natural omniscience
is recalled and recorded upon this map
by shades of the recently departed who’ve
dropped all pretence of sorrow and vehemence.
With his phosphorescent absence

of political skews and racial miscues,
he hovered over the map, and with a finger
gnarled as ebony burl, he cruised along
routes I’d been known to frequent and
rubbed them all out, pronouncing every one
irrelevant. Time to accept there’s no fact in
the past with the power to deplete or subvert
your future. Take a page from the wild. When
the cayman’s not hungry, he’s loath to attack, and
the puma speeds through bracken.

Likewise, in the seam between moments—and
years—that appear to engender and justify
fear, you will find a clear trail laid out by the good
that is you and your boundaryless kin. You are
timely, well compassed. Walk on, begin.
And now it is time for this Job to expire.
He dropped the fat rubies into a sack.
He rolled up the mansion and with it the map,
spinning all he had shown me into a gyre
like devouring fire…

Wishing you a happy and magical New Year!

© Elaine Stirling, 2016