Maria Garcia Teutsch

Art by Frédéric Bourret

What the Condor Saw in Big Sur

At the edge–
            spotted stones
                        and roiling kelp.
The day facets me in its diamond.
            Wind-chimes are silent,
Buddha’s stone head bows.
A gap in the fence could tell–
                                       mouth opens,
               closes on a dahlia,
on a rosebush stripped to thorns.
A beheaded sunflower stem
holds a hummingbird’s silhouette.
Bees comb and primp the blonde sky.
            Waves fall down–
spotted stones
and roiling kelp.
        Shadows slink and slip
with the earth’s music.
                    With a mouth full of stones, I sing.

The Year I Didn’t Die

I didn’t want to follow the curandera’s prescription.

and be steeped in a tea of semi-sleep,
where my love tended
the lilacs and pansies I embroidered over
the white months of my unbecoming.

I didn’t like her crown of bird’s skulls, but I did so want to believe
in her prophecy.

Love is patient. Love cooks meals of dandelions
and sea grass. Love wakes up with you when the night
jumps you on that dark trail where branches
of trees become incisors.

Love is with you when you are alone.

Alone in the dark I called out my enemy,
and wielded a switchblade to kill the callous
beast before he hacked down all my wild places.

Inside the curandera’s hut of mud and sticks I breathed
an infusion of spider webs and river-worn stones
until I too became a river where spiders did their
lace dance in the grass arching the banks.

I heard the curandera’s laughter like dimes tossed to spin on a tin roof.
She sent me away then, said, “Fell a path till you reach home.”

Each moonless night tasted of metal and spark.
I placed myself in the space between sun and moon,
until sunlight’s birdsong promised morning.

Each day when the bees bounced from lavender to thistle
I counted toward this house of flesh surviving. Each day
I drank the moonshine overflowing love’s cup.

Furtively my love and I stole starlight from the inky night
and I recovered from the fever flicker of the death glimpse.

A Lamentation of Swans
Outside of Berlin,
in the lake country,
my headlights flash
on swans’ wobbling necks
as they alight
and waddle through
monoliths of hoar frost–
The field is pregnant in its pause.
A tuft of last year’s crop
stubborn in its snowy mitten, doesn’t
know it’ll be plowed under until it feels the blade.
No evil in the world in this moment–
No suffering or envy or pain,
just the gossip of the swans
as they complain.

A Swan in Winter

Today the snow didn’t stick–
just the cold like icy
sap in the marrow.
House sparrows root through

crunchy mud. A woman
on a pink bike
rides by with her
furry hood up.

I do not think about that frail
woman in the purple paisley
scarf staring back at me
in the mirror last summer.

Instead I pull a wool cap
over my too-thick boy hair,
and walk to the lake
and its willow

in the middle of Berlin,
where one swan
bobs its head
up and down,

and feel the wafer
of a small sun
at the back of my tongue.

The Swans of Berlin

On a bridge over a canal in Kreuzberg
snow everywhere and below, a game of swans
pearling themselves onto the water’s inky nape.
In the winter I almost died, I smiled.

I woke early and left my lover’s bed
to slide on ice-gilded cobblestones,
back to the bridge, where I slowly
traced their webbed tracks like kites

on the frosted bank. I returned early each day
and came to know one pair,
called them Henry and Anaïs,
because the male blustered and busked,

and the female carved shapes in the water
like runes on each cloud’s reflection.
When they bowed to each other, their necks formed a heart.
In the year I suffered but did not die, they often made me cry.

I could see the dead swans
like two cream puffs,
Pollocked and still. Feathers
frothing on freezing wind.

No, like two swans beaten and wrung—

I stood frozen on the bridge.
The water slushed by. Then I screamed.

It being Berlin, everyone pretended not to notice,
until they noticed the two dead swans.

Fear hung about us like ghost apples.
The sky opened a snowy glove.

Flakes caked my eyes, still–
I could see. Still, I stood on the bridge.

People walked over then, a small crowd like bits of kindling
circling each bird, a child crying–
then police sirens and lights.

Swans don’t just sing when they die:
they hiss, they grunt, they snort, and mute swans–
they’re the noisiest of all.

The police report said two young men.
It did not say that on a Friday night
full of fuck or fight,

two skinheads stumbled to the water’s edge
with a bat.  Killed Anaïs, killed Henry.
Then sweated and said, “Fuck yeah!”

No chill wind for them.
They clinked beers,
smoked cigarettes,
then slept in a halo of exhaustion.

The haunting
hadn’t started yet for them.
The waking
to the sound of wing beats,
of the two swans
just gone—

Maria Garcia Teutsch is an award-winning poet and educator. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the Homestead Review published by Hartnell College, and Ping-Pong Journal of Art and Literature published by the Henry Miller Memorial Library. She is Founder and EIC of Poet Republik Ltd. and Ping-Pong Free Press.

Birds of a Feather at EIL

Gallery of Birds at EIL

Audubon’s Sparrow at EIL

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.