Lindsay Marks 6 p.m., Dec. 5
by Daniel Charles Thomas, 2001.
1. the gringos say there is a myth in el pueblo de Mulegé that you can get trapped here and never leave but it only seems, at first, that snowbirds come back every winter to make feliz año nuevo new year night and day as a small army of foreign fish swimming through this ranchero sea . 2. the curving valley bends crescent lagoon green water emerald palms below mountain hills and rocks of seven different colors mineral blue iron red clay green lava chocolate background peaks fold the coast to create and guide the river canyon living water first come to surface in jagged mountain arroyos holy baby stream wrapped in cactus boulder swaddling rocks trickling blood of sierra where Indians scratched & painted their fading past COCHIMI water brushes a wider valley where today's cattle forage RANCHERO then flows between walls of palm toward a man-built dam of stone here the priests built their misión JESUITA/DOMINICANA & just downstream across the little rio still two miles from the sea above the head of a long & narrow tidal lagoon the town took root and grew este pueblo de Baja California Santa Rosalia de Mulegé - now just plain Mulegé - but nothing plain about this little old oasis village beside its carpet of hairy palm tree heads nothing plain at all about this hidden corner where Europe and America meet a tiny outpost of Mexico between twin lagoons of sweet and salt fresh and sour the town waits to capture you. 3. pelican flies broad-winged up the turning canyon planes over water body stretch and bend around the corners of arroyo rio the only river in many hours or days of travel all else is wild, dry jagged, stony desert until this rare, wet canyon where the pelican Señor Pelicano after endless flight along the rocky coast of fish turns inland to hunt the marshy swamp and brackish tidal lagoon with arcing bend of heavy spread he turns the corner upstream from salt mangrove toward valley reed measuring wide palm tree walls on either side like fur in his wings gone feather shifting ever so slightly no hummingbird possible he gives the slow turn through barely five degrees of twist and then catching some little movement in his eye he rises up, folds, and plummets like a rock into the wet, flat water to emerge a moment later in his own ripples his mouth fat with supper. 4. two nights before new year Mulegé holds a wedding of earth and sky, sea and land the stars crawl overhead town whore taps hotel door and three bands battle for rulership of the night for sacrifice, two young men battle in the street until their friends take them away saying "vamos a la boda" next day shops take siesta or don't depending on customers and trade and a distant rumor reaches the poet's ears when someone says all the bus seats are sold. 5. at the highway junction into town - the "Y" - (la i griega) - a monument by the bus stop celebrates heroic defensores de Mulegé against invading Northamericans 154 years ago today they buy groceries, eat tacos, or wait for the bus on a shaded concrete bench built for summer's blazing sun the poet, in the night of the day before the end, walks with Fred and Joe and Ben past the I-Griega Market to a roadside stand reputed to serve los mejores tacos de todo Mulegé he eats six in company with gringos and Mexicanos a middleaged couple say "we were just passing through when our radiator hose burst - stopped to have it fixed, and thought we'd come over here to try a few..." Another man, silver-haired, stands back watching, declining the poet's offer to move forward and order - "No, it's magic just to watch them work - he chooses the freshest meat every day, and look - she never touches the money... always uses a plastic bag... "I've been coming here for years, yes, that's right, they told you true, these are the best in or out of town "and like much in Mulegé, once you taste it once, you'll never want to leave again..." 6. on new year's eve the village, ranches, and roads between all merge for the last night and first morning of a different millennium the drinking town holds even more bands than the night before visitor and local, Mexican and foreigner all sit down and stand up together to remember life is new and old come again fiesta feliz año nuevo gracias a Dios vivimos ahorita in the river next morning, the qui-qui-qui coot calls from lagoon to lagoon this California could have been the Nile in miniature and the foreigners and natives like Greeks and Egyptians downing beer in the dead rebirth of winter nor any thought of new world short order minimarkets or telecommerce from Los Angeles or Tijuana could stand against Miguel in his cantina or Emelia in her bar restaurante or the hundreds local other slowly working their shops, hotels, bars three thousand Mexicans and five hundred gringos, a very post-modern mix of nuts and bolts, all sorts enfolding the village of ranchero birth never forgetting whose is la patria Frontera Baja California Sur says each license placa carro in this enchanting entrapping town. 7. the busses pass north without any open seats lucky few bought their tickets weeks ago poet only got a one-way south now watches them go January 1st, January 2nd walks away to stare @ the precious river while a truck downshifts, dropping from the pass, carressing the hills, slowing to crawl the Y-Griega for those inevitable speed bumps which announce the town then gearing up again on highway bending new bridge across river south [well, he's got through, at least] a coot flutters his wings in water preening and dancing for his mate the buzzards circle overhead like eager aspirants for work their broad, straight wings stretch to catch every updraft interview every carrion opportunity but the poet, unable to buy a ticket walks beside the river, climbs that rocky knoll behind the mission, looks out over open water pathway rippled by breezy wind which drops between thick palm walls to embrace the curved lagoon face lacuna entre / between dos lados / sides de tules y palmas where the frigate-pirate birds, riding that gentle breath, bend their jagged wings and dive toward the water, pretending to fish tempting smaller birds to come out and be eaten the poet thinks of hitchiking watching a folded wing, a false dive toward the water, and then recovery with a quick skim over the wet surface that echoes the truck, speedbump and road as ten thousand palm fronds sigh in concert their carpeted throat unrolled down canyon conspiring with the wind to overpower the highway casting a spell of delicious sound enchanting, entrapping, rustling the wanderer until traffic growls and automobile truck dreams become real again & poet remembers hard world waiting out there, and here - no seats on the bus... after all that talk, you are trapped in Mulegé... and it's time to look for a cheaper room.