11 August · Afternoon · Nissan's back seat
Last night dinner when we got in late, the long drive up from Palenque. Twisty road & little dark cook fires telling of huts that dangle on precipices. An enormous jungle insectmantis or hopperrode like a hood ornament for hours as we cut and swerved through singing vegetation. Cooler the higher we went, up from wet heat into thinner air. We neared Ocosingo and slowed at a settlement for the blinking lantern. Our insect protector went into the darkness on whirring wings.
Once in town we found a room, then returned to the only eating place that had looked openoverlooking the sloping zocolo from Hotel Central's porch. Inside they'd cut the lights and now we thought the restaurant closedout of luckjust a card game going on next to the window. But a boy saw us and brought tequila to an outside table. We sat for a quick mealthin soup and tortillas. Fifty feet off the cement fountain where soldiers had tossed six thin boys on the pavement a year ago Januaryeach with a single bullet in the back of his head. Ranking officer sweating as he led journalists over for photosI saw them up north. And little threads of blood trailing downhill to the church.
Freshly painted Government Palace dominates the uphill end of the squarepowder blue & ivory under the klieg lights. A Disneyland quality to its fanciful ornamented facade. You'd expect the sounds of an F. Scott Fitzgerald party but back of the windows sit uniformed gunmen. Caciques, local bosses, pick their teeth & idle about the doorway with pistols. The bullet holes patched. Zapatistas have gone who knows where. Tonight is quiet enough in town, just a few wooden booths waiting for market to open tomorrow. One last tequila, & back through streets dusted by rain, attractive smell of motor oil in the gutters. Jorge had warned, watch out for coletos here. And the big owners with their squads of gunmen. But a quiet bulb casting yellow off the ribbons of asphalt guides usto our little posadathe one place in town with a roomfour of us in three narrow beds
nearly insoluble puzzle to which love is the answer
Skull crusted with turquoise mosaic chips
I draw a finger along the ridge of your brow
And south past the cattle barons & machineguns
Through the black mask a
Andrew Schelling | Ocosingo
Contents | Mudlark No. 9