Northwords Now

New writing, fresh from Scotland and the wider North
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A possible Kerouac

by Deborah Moffatt

In a small café we ate lunch
tucked away somewhere behind the Zócalo,
our pockets full of packets of herbs and nuts,
seeds and doubts, witchcraft or magic, brujería
in abundance for those who believe, sly eyes
and sleight of hand to us.

We were three, or five, or seven,
or more, foreigners, but not strangers,
friends, by presumption, by circumstance,
by default, one always going spare, all of us
falling in and out of love, with each other,
with ourselves, with Mexico.
 
Kerouac came here once
someone said, and maybe Burroughs.
The odd man out among us knew all about it,
himself more Burroughs than Kerouac, not a loner
but always alone, an errant thread dangling
loose at the edge.

Everything was red: the tables, the chairs,
my skirt, the food soaked in tomatoes and chipotle.
I ate goat, a notion, a disappointment, tough
and stringy; you drank beer from a bottle
and only later noticed the gritty sludge
lying at the bottom.  

It was a mere coincidence
that everything that day was red, fading,
all of it, as we ate, sucking seeds and nuts
from our teeth, threads and strings fraying,
lives disintegrating. What did it matter
if Kerouac had ever been here?  

The sediment was everywhere,
undermining the city, a constant erosion
of purpose, of integrity. One by one, we left
the café, each other, Mexico. Scattered, gone,
disappeared, dead or alive, we exist, still,
a tale to tell, a possible Kerouac.

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