Her fevered body quivers on the cool, tiled floor
of a bathroom, near the tangled nest of a hotel bed.
Staccato of fireworks, as the parasite claws its way
through dehydrated organs. At the Mercado de las Brujas,
revelers purchase marigolds, candy skulls, and bread-children,
to cart to the graves of the Valle de Flores. A hitchhiker
tortures the bowels with a vicious will to devour, to live.
Crawling from the hell of the toilet, to the purgatory
of the bed, she knows hours are limited, and how fitting,
to meet her end in a volcanic crater, in the neat bowl
of La Paz , city of ashes. The bumpy ride from Uyuni,
a cold shiver starting up in the Cordillera, as Mt. Illimani
glowed under the full moon; it stalked her, pulled her
down like prey, raw and immediate. Now, the curious
ghosts descend. In her delirium, they speak
their mythical language, over the marching band
near the Iglesia de San Francisco , its pounding vibration,
its brassy chaos. Blood, shit, and vomit; inferno of the body,
purification of sin. The calacas come to life, following
flowery paths amid dancing cholitas, the swish and swirl
of skirts and shawls, tinkling of spirit bells. Across the city,
on home altars, candles sputter, and fruit begins
its slow decay. The veil between worlds is thin;
everyone, happy to be alive, or happy to be dead.
In the floods upstream, a husband
slips, lets go of a hand, and a wife
glides away, clinging to garbage.
As bodies pile up against the dam,
the biohazard-cocktail of the Yangtze
drives along in a grave fog, a fish-killer,
crop-flooder, wife-stealer. Three days missing,
and they show her wide eyes on the news, over
and over. The eyes tell us: I am already given
to water. It is worse than any movie—she will
not be found. She stares into the camera, as her
bobbing head disappears, and we are transfixed.
Her televised death plays again and again,
each time the video cutting to her frantic husband,
his short reach, the wailing circle of his mouth.
Now, somewhere along the banks, oily branches form
a quiet cage. Hair is tangling in the rushes, soft muck
caressing a corpse, as the river cherishes its spoils.
Lauren Tivey has been living in China for the past two years, where she works as an English Literature teacher in the American Program at a Chinese high school. She received a MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her work has appeared in Deuce Coupe, The Literary Burlesque, and Gutter Eloquence, among other publications. Her chapbook, The Breakdown Atlas, is due out in July of 2011 from Big Table Publishing Co. She lives for poetry, photography, travel, and adventure.