Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Revelation (adapted from Tristes Tropiques)

One day they were lazy degenerates
the next, when we returned,
our oxen laden as a caravan,
they were a revelation:

huge painted jars, deerskins
illuminated with arabesques,
delicate carvings that introduced
a forgotten panthaeon.

Three years later, I saw Don Félix again.
The bourgeois parlour of his fazenda
was now hung with painted skins,
native pots in every corner.

The Indians had become his suppliers,
whole families welcomed, objects
exchanged. How far, I wondered,
did such new intimacy go?

Was a bachelor able to resist
the charms of young Indian girls,
half-naked on feast days,
their bodies laced with black scrolls?

Be that as it may,
Don Félix was killed in '45
by one of his new-found friends,
victim not so much of the Indians

as of the mental confusion
into which, ten years previously,
he had been plunged
by a party of young anthropologists.

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