Where All Debts Are Paid

Where All Debts Are Paid
(originally published in the Fall 2014 edition of Huizache)

1 The Dilemma

What passions roil within me
Whenever I recite, my friends!
I drag my heart round
And round this earth,
Sketching with words
Every stopping place.

My soul is most content
In that good place,
That peaceful home—
The company of others.
I still have not been swept away
To the Unknowable Realm!

But my heart knows the truth,
And I can only sing
What is real, my friends.
Those who fruitlessly beg
The one god
Surrender a damaged heart to him.

Could the afterlife
Be here on earth?
Is there no way
To be born once more?

No, we only truly live
In that Unknowable Realm
Within the heavens.
Only there are people content.

2 Obsidian Oblivion

Ankle bells drone,
Dust rises like smoke,
Pleasing our god,
The Giver of Life.

Shield flowers
Burst into bloom,
Fearful glory spreads
As the earth trembles.

Flowery ritual death is dealt
Here in the midst of the desert
Where all debts are finally paid.

At the fringe of the fray,
Where battle begins,
In the midst of the desert
Where all debts are paid,
Dust rises like smoke,
Coiling round,
A twirling dervish
Of war-blossom death,
O princes,
O Chichimec lords!

Feel no fear, my heart:
I crave obsidian oblivion
There within that desert—
Our souls ache for battle death.

Yes, even there,
At the fringe of the fray
I crave obsidian oblivion—
Our souls ache for battle death.

Clouds rise and spread—
The Giver of Life
Glows springtide green.
There the eagles
And jaguars sprout,
The princes bloom,
Rising from the scorched earth
Of the battlefield.

Friends, let us enjoy ourselves!
Be joyful, princes,
Here in this desert
Where all will come to live.

We borrow them
For just a while—
Shield flowers
Rising from the scorched earth
Of the battlefield.

Songs of Mexico XVI
Translated from the Nahuatl by David Bowles

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