OASIS MULEGÉ

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.

from 2001


Comments

Tallsharon April 14, 2012 @ 8:02 p.m.

Always wanted to go to mulege. thanks for taking me there.

0

nan shartel April 19, 2012 @ 4:48 p.m.

u r one remarkable poet Daniel...u should definitely publish...i'm going to share this with my facebook site...hope u don't mind

publish as an online bit of work...thx 4 this...it just knocked me out!!!

0

Daniel Thomas May 9, 2012 @ 2:49 p.m.

wow... you all are very kind thank you so much and please excuse my slow response to your gracious comments

0

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