Marc Frazier


Landscape with the Sierra Anchas by

Santa Fe lures me and I stay. For awhile. From endless, parched roads we traipse the Grand Canyon, cliff dwellings of Bandolier, adobe churches catholic in their sameness. In early August, the blue corn feast at Cochiti Pueblo where hundreds dance in traditional dress. Hour after hour into sunset, bare feet pound in unison, vibrations descend into earth; believers climb down into the kiva to honor their birth. Like Esquimau with different words for different snow, they have as many strands, colors of corn, prayers for water. How little I know.

heat from earth rises
come home to honor bounty
fry bread blue corn sun

Supplicants anywhere find miracles in the elements: the water of Lourdes, the dirt from this tiny room in El Santuario de Chimayo. I review one makeshift shrine after another, candles before simple altars with images of Mary and Christ—written prayers for cures, rosaries tangled with mementos of personal effects, nearly weep over the hanging crutches, corrupt with envy. How broken must I be to be touched by God like this? All the arroyos, chamisa, mountains of pine: I want them.

humble seekers pray
dim earth rooms of last resort
Holy Mother blue

I drive these barely-two-lanes with a prayer on my lips. I will find Ojo Caliente: the hot eye that bursts out at the foot of the mountain. The one the Indians living on the mesa above held sacred. In a new land, language is power. The name of this valley—Española—is the name given by conquerors. Natives, starved into a new religion, live in two worlds. Today I am to become the sun, blue sky, to be massaged, to bathe in, drink the waters—springs that bubble: the only place in the world with this combination of minerals. What is holy is holy. What is moral depends. I surrender, forget the decision facing me, the way back. Which road do I choose? Ours? My old ways?

summer sun so soon
pale skin burnishing golden
warm hands melt worry

Devotion hurts. Consider the stigmatist. We, Los Hermanos de Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, bear the pain of Christ—the pain that brings each of us eternal life. The Church fears our passion, forbids mortification of the flesh, even if it brings us to God. But the people open their arms, ask us to wed and bury them. Our private places, Los moradas, blend into land. Within, we protect our pain, our santos, our secrets. We pray for worthiness to live the sad road. The road that led Christ to our salvation. Each Holy Week begins our journey. Flogging ourselves, on our knees, we approach Nuestro Padre. Hour after hour people join us to walk the dusty path. On Sunday, throats parched, knees and backs bleeding, we crawl into the church, broken, some by heavy crosses. This is nothing compared to the weight of sins Christ carries. Rumor says one of us is crucified each Good Friday—the way to joy for Los Penitentes.

bloody palms of faith
broken sacred heart of Christ

Mass in his hometown Alcalde. Afterward, on church grounds, the dance of the Matachines. The drama unfolds in Spanish. The energy of the beautiful, dark youngsters shines through practiced movements. Virginal symbolism—the chosen bride of Christ. The fool working the crowd. Wooly-faced abuelos. Conquistadores proud on their horses. Indians proud on their horses. This Moorish ritual breathes the rhythms of Spain made new by this country and the pueblo Indians. I am an outsider in his valley: the “friend” from Chicago, my skin even lighter here. Lying next to you at night I sleep beside the landscape I most desire.


About the writer:
Marc Frazier has widely published poetry in journals including The Spoon River Poetry Review, ACM, Good Men Project, f(r)iction, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Slant, Permafrost, Plainsongs, and Poet Lore. He is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Award for poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a “best of the net.” His book The Way Here and his two chapbooks are available on Amazon as well as his second full-length collection Each Thing Touches.

Image: Looking across Roosevelt Lake at some rugged mountain country, the light makes it look like a landscape painting by AlanLevine. By free license.