Sonja Swift | Mexico City

Mexico City

I situate myself w/ a pillow on my lap, soft feather desk for journal, before I write myself toward some unknowable desert land full of cacti and a red sun and magenta sky. Monarch butterflies. Moths that kill themselves in their lust for flame. Light and how it penetrates. The thick curtains. Bouncing off water droplets in divots of cobblestone. Plumage. I think of Quetzalcoatl and jade feathers. Red like death. La Virgin de Guadalupe Mother Mary image, a duplicity: she is Aztec rain goddess TONANTZIN. The monument to her a giant circle, entry doors adorned in four directions crosses (no phallic extension to the south) and textile images of water, wind, ripe fruit, plump fish scaled and blue. We lit two candles and left them in an outdoor altar. The mother is easier for me to pray toward than a holy man w/ nails in his palms and that bronze of the pope outside, an imposition. We walked miles across limestone grooved by foot soles and grey cement and rawhide dirt. Rode the metro in one great loop, never getting close to the edge of this giant sprawling valley city. The air smog-swept, taste of cigarettes and paint and sewage and cleaning supplies, an acrid lemon. Once in a while the warm smell of tortillas on a griddle and the occasional verdant plumage that may one day adorn this ancient place again. “Mexico City is an ecological disaster,” the guidebook reads. Conquistadores drained the lake. Outside someone is drumming. Aztec dancers in the plaza. Copal smoke clouds. Their aliveness reverberates w/ might and grandeur. The tilting cathedral behind them feels outdated. The Templo de Mayor daily uncovered, emergent. More relevant than the priest and his microphone. Drumbeat. Heartbeat. Blue ink stain on blank page, water droplets spill off one by one from the wet tip of my hair onto a white pillow case. He pointed at the cathedral today and reflected, once the church started building the largest, most ornate thing in town, they became the banker. And isn’t that it. Those drums. Drummers are not asked to play in church. The drum, I think, is an old enemy. Too much heartbeat. Echo. I look down at my naked chest and below my left breast I notice a small pulsation. At first it scares me, until I realize my own internal drum is beating.

Sonja Swift writes toward a place of understanding both of herself and of our world. She has publications in Dark Matter: Women Witnessing, Langscape magazine, Rock & Sling journal, Catamaran literary reader, Snapdragon: a journal of art & healing, and a chapbook of prose poems called Alphabet Atlas published by Deconstructed Artichoke Press. She calls home both San Francisco, California and the Black Hills, South Dakota.