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                                                                      Renato Rosaldo


Climbing Viracuta

                for Manuel

In the morning our horses walk
dry trails past empty homes—
fallen adobe, nopales.
A child passes on a delicately trotting donkey.
We tether the horses and climb Viracuta,
find white stones in three circles, one inside the other,
offerings placed to one side by the Huicholes,
asking, like us, for corn and water and life.

Next day, my son and I find ourselves
in the northern Mexican desert.
In the car he talks until we reach
a cheap room on the plaza,
the outskirts of town.
A guide tells us of silver,
once abundant, now gone.
Best by horse, he says,
but your 4x4 will climb it.

The hill steepens, we slide back,
start up, slide back,
the stench of burning clutch,
can’t shift out of four-wheel.
The guide drops rocks
behind our rear wheels, then walks.
We inch down into the ghost town.
Water, he says, flooded the veins of silver.
Stuck, the miners ate shirts and shoes.
Their hearts burst in the fresh air.
The adobe wind whistles,
a mining town without words.

My son and I eat supper in silence.
He begins to mumble, his voice thin.
Because I listen, my eyes large, breath steady,
I can hear his voice deepen
as he finds his song.