At first sight he looked to have an army
hidden within him, the silent young stranger
who came to abide quietly in the high corner
of the garden. At first I imagined his face
always covered with a mask that spoke of burnt
powder and sudden wounds. He bent himself
almost immediately to the practice of his craft,
and soon found a few good friends.

        His wisdom took form within weeks, his
unknowings fell as shards the expert chisel
discards. Through the vines one day I glimpsed
a small part of his transformation. He seemed
gentle as a mid-wife as he watched urchins on
the hill above the garden. They were gathering
the deep purple garambullo cactus fruit, with
needles taped to sticks playing at soldiers
with bayonets pillaging a bounty of berries.

        Through the years of his sojourn a somber
aura of honored clothes fit about him; the medicine
of the valley, sure in sanctum. One by one
his phantoms fled, like water-borne dust by
seldom flood left clean rootlets and fresh stones
in the Garden.

        He pledged himself to Plumbago,
Chayote, and Zapote, emissaries of a crownless
sovereign. He held out against Poinsettia
and Bougainvillea at the siege of Otomi Creek,
where he proved himself to himself. The flute
was not martial, and the tune not rousing,
but the sweet bamboo ripple sang Burro
and Papaya – so the topazes inside the Mountains
could hear.

        The garden chapel to sacred history
enlarged him in power. He became sweethearts
with the god-daughter of the Bishop Cereza. Many nights
over brandy the cleric searchingly questioned him
regarding diverse Credos.

        In the garden where we always met in passing,
a fine security had grown between us, a friendly
distance that allowed each to work the solitude
undisturbed. Only once, after two springtimes had
passed, did I notice him linger at the place we called
“the chapel.” Ravens flew over.

        An imperceptible hardness seemed to slow the hours
in the weeks after. He appeared to have resolved something.
One evening I felt his sadness across the twilight
under the trees. Yet his steps grew much lighter
over the stones in the garden before he left.

© Carlton Godbold 1987

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