Lokkal- todo SMA
San Miguel Burns

by Duke Miller

There is an old hotel near the park. I am here. The bed is a large boat rising on the tide. The stars are close enough to reflect off my eyes. I can feel them burning into me, branding me. The city is dying where the callejones are dark. Cockroaches silently move in the cracks. Nature is proud of such moments. Bated breath at 3:00 a.m., a good moment to reckon things out as best I can; there is nothing in front or behind. My memory is a white sheet hanging on a line, gentle in the breeze. I am a child once again talking to my mother.

“Why did Granna die?  I didn’t want her to die.”
“Well, she was 94-years-old and that is a long time to live and so she just died.”
“Will you and Daddy die?”
“Yes…but not for a long time.”
My face is blank in the shadows of my butterfly nightlight and I ask, “Will I die Mommy?”
“No.  You will live forever.”
“What is forever?”
“It’s like a beautiful flower that you plant in the sun and water every day and sing to it and slowly it grows higher and higher into the sky and then one day it is so high you think it will go on forever and reach the moon or maybe Saturn.”

Saturn is my favorite planet. It reminds me of an all-night, drive-in diner where the waitresses skate out on the rings and the hamburgers gently land with a whoosh of smoke upon the tray. My mother sighs, smiles, brushes hair out of my eyes and I am safe in the comforting warmth of her touch.
“Am I like a flower Mommy?”
“Yes.  You are Mommy’s flower.”

There is an infinite line.  Well it seems infinite, but everything must end.  Even arrow shaped lines drawn upon blackboards finally pierce one’s heart and when they do, learning stops, understanding disappears, and wisdom dies. A clock keeps time with my thoughts and a song comes to me and I wonder if I can find my own personal savior. Is he hanging there on the cross just above the bed or down the street in the gym?

I turn my face toward the wall. The woman is at my back and she mutters something in a strange language. When I think of her, the words are beyond love. They are a drowning in the folds of a yellow dress. I can’t put her in my pocket. Shadows dance in the room. There is a fire on the hillside and the light is traveling down into the city and along the streets and through the windows of ten thousand rooms where people twist and dream. The mind of the fire is plotting how it can grow and cover everything. Some fires have PhD’s and are smarter than people. I know this is true. A big fire can suck the air out of the sky and get inside a person’s lungs and turn heaving into a death warrant signed by a secret court.

How long have I lain here? Outside there are golden flashes in the green trees and they seem to be winking. Is it the sunrise or the fire? I ask myself a few questions: Where is my passport?  I need my passport to leave the country. I need my visa too.  Where are they?  Should I wake her?  The hotel room begins to fill with blue and orange flames. There is a clear path to a writing desk against the wall. I open a drawer and find the passport and visa. I take them out and slip them into my mochila. The front of the hotel is on fire. Smoke rises. With luck I can be at the Laredo crossing in seven, maybe eight hours. I’ll be home safe and away. I smear gel on my face and walk down to the lobby to pay the bill.

I leave her there on the burning bed.  She is dreaming about a remembrance of joy.  Everything is forever for her and on that point we disagree. Her eyelids flicker like the ripple of oars in the water and she can feel them pulling her along. On the shore are people at a restaurant overlooking a river.  They are smiling in the afternoon, talking leisurely.  Some of them are sitting on the slope of the bank.  The men take off their jackets and the women wear well-crafted hats.  She wants to wave, but her arms are heavy and asleep and so the happy people remain untouched by her and they all seem content, trapped in their painterly gaze.

The fire rages in the room.

I am on the sidewalk now and I cross the street. I fall. I know everything that I can know. My whole life has been an attempt to gather everything inside, but with a sense of beauty, even when it is ugly, vicious, and deadly. I see the bodies floating in the muddy Sobat waiting for the fish to eat them. The old women stiff on the roadside with their heads cracked open. The babies covered with flies, still and waiting. One must care and not care at the same time. There is beauty and madness in all of this and the trick is how to function along the spectrum, from one extreme to the other. I used to wonder how a fashion magazine might pose models upon a killing field. How would they credit the photos? As I fall, I can see everything that is possible given the moving slant of my body. To my left is a wedding reception just inside a doorway. The smiling people are shiny and new, ready for the future of Mexico.

My final three seconds begins as the fire gathers around me.
“Will I die Mommy?”
“No you will live forever,” and then my head hits a historic rock from the time of the Porfiriato, but it doesn’t matter. Everything is black and silent for me. The cars continue to pass until a little girl in the backseat of a taxi yells and the driver stops.  A crowd forms and a middle-aged woman places a paper rose at my feet.

The sky begins to burn and the people know within a few days the flames will cover everything and all business, all crimes, and all affairs of the heart will be conducted in either the fire or hot air balloons floating high above ten thousand rooms where people twist and dream.


Duke Miller used to work with refugees and the displaced. If there was a war between 1975-2000 he was probably there. He is happy to be in Mexico, not drinking, walking his dog, standing around, fitfully sleeping, talking sometimes, and eating. He says hi to Tres, whom he loves.

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