Abiquiu, New Mexico
I return to Leopoldo Garcia’s home gallery
where, this damp morning-glory morning,
he wears overalls and one tennis shoe.
Yesterday his litany of augurs, acrylic and clay
flowed like red nectar. Hummingbird
in his studio, I bring a gift of poems.
Leopoldo paints with a hole in his heart
pierced by a priest darker than a cassock.
He grieves for the children gone forever,
mica tears grafted on flat masks, tiny
eyes, round mouths. Nearby his studio
a weathered red and white figure
carved by the Penitentes of Morades
strains under a black timber
backlit by mute sage and pinion.
At this station of the cross, Leopoldo whispers
to those with nails in their feet:
Be quiet, so the years cannot hear you.
Earlier he showed me a walking stick
of cottonwood—just finished—bold
butterflies up and down its blue corridor.
Migrations are always with him. Beautiful,
but too tall to carry home. I settled for coasters,
a photo of the artist beside a friend’s tapestry,
every shade of rose – lips, palm, yes – vulva,
the Chama’s banks after rain. Steep price:
sad to let it go, though he needs what it brings,
as the land needs rain. Few tourists in town.
They stop at the general store where O’Keefe
gassed up her motorcycle, zoomed off
to collect bones thinking that’s what’s here.
She petalled over death. The post office rents
boxes to artists from three counties
who claim Abiquiu as their own.
Only three hundred wrap tamales here,
pet the cats. The church began in 1930.
Every week they rub the icons with wool cloths,
scrub and wash down the adobe walls.
He paints retablos — the Guadalupe
shedding two white tears, Saint Francis
protecting the dogs and cats and owls.
The church is locked, they stole so much from us.
But knock when you see the blue car.
The secretary will let you in. She guards
the white candles and carved crosses,
spirits of ancestors lulled from the breach.
Now his large hands greet me.
He holds up my book, admires
the crimson blossom and petroglyphs
on the cover. He worries about the Indians
not drawn to the rock—what lasts,
hard work and honest art. Making a living,
not easy. One hand sweeps a painting of Mary.
This is my hope. One day, I will do alright.
Leopoldo laments the waters
gone from the arroyo, now caked,
cut by a mirage of lines
he will memorize with his chisel
until his walking sticks join rain
in the desert once again.
I imagine a kaleidoscopic armadillo
on the handle, winged pencils
lining the poet’s staff. I place
the order. When I leave he says
Now you have come, time to open.
I will put on my other shoe.