By Joseph Murphy
I’d never met another on that steep hill’s summit.
Wild flowers grew as they would
Along a country lane: sunset
I stood on jagged rock, vastness
Of skyline and bay below.
A star appeared through sheer clouds: that instant
The past seemed no more
Than an empty page.
Star, Stone and Blade
For Victor De Perez
He spoke of bow-hunting pheasants
Amid the sugarcane and sage
I thought we’d be hiking the plane.
But he’d chosen a steep, dusty path
Through boulder and weed:
“Surprise,” he said,
“This is Xochicalco.”
Workers lunched beside unearthed walls;
A stepped pyramid’s stonework
Began to emerge.
He led to what seemed a cave at its base.
In flashlight-illuminated coolness,
The hollow grew smaller, hand-cut.
I clicked off the flash in a domed chamber:
A sunlit circle
Appeared at our feet.
Elders had knelt on sacred cloth,
A polished black stone
Torches extinguished, moon and starlight
Fell through shaft
To stone: movements marked;
A calendar set.
Beyond the broad plaza, wooded hills.
A serpent god towered above us,
Across a temple’s sides.
Lingering by an altar, I imagined
The rite: blade hafted; wrath forestalled;
Tracks of moon and star
The trail down
Crisscrossed tops of blocks; a half-buried terrace.
Dusk took hold; night while driving.
Cut a short, but steady path.
Joseph Murphy has been published in a number of journals, including The Ann Arbor Review, Northwind and The Sugar House Review. He recently had collection of poems published, Crafting Wings (Scars Publications 2017). Murphy is also the senior poetry editor for an online literary publication, Halfway Down the Stairs, established in 2005.