March 18, 2011

The Archeology of Love

Part 3 in the Series ” The Evolution of  a Relationship“. As it says in the poem below, “I will invent what I have to (like any good archeologist)”.

I am fascinated by our ability to fall in love, to fall out of love, to get over what seems un-get-overable at the time. I am in awe of the human spirit and the fact that if we keep digging, we unearth things of such beauty we have no choice but to speak of them.

A long long time ago:

Spanish conquistadors interact with the Aztec culture, day one.

They are given four samples of raw green jade.

An Aztec emissary says to Cortés “These stones are the most precious items

in the entire Aztec treasury!

Send directly to the Spanish King Charles V.”


However, as is human nature,

the Spanish lusted after gold, not stones.

400 years later

a Guatemalan tomato farmer in the 1950’s

found green jade in the Motagua river valley

from the Aztec and Mayans.

Jade buried under tomato plants

And his fingernails black with dirt and proud

as the Cinco negritos: the Lantana plant,

indigenous to his land, both powerful and full of poison.


We never know where we will find our history,

where we will discover what has formed us,

What we will find while farming tomatoes.

Exhuming beauty from the soil, excavating remains.

The unearthing of things long forgotten.

The source of the blue-green jade used by the Olmec remains a mystery,

As most things of beauty often will.


In your little apartment somewhere in Iowa,

You carve from clay-

The pounding of it, the pulverizing,

This creation and inevitable destruction of matter.

You are a sculptor.

This process as inevitable as any ritual-

Like watching women pound acorns with oblong rocks.

Holes the size of nickels created by the repetition,

The impact of stone against stone, over and over.

I think of you sculpting red clay into things of mythic beauty-

Then letting it dry and crushing it into the earth,

to be reshaped.

The repetition of this, the rebuilding.

This natural desire towards achievement.

What turns into memory?


Around 300 BC, the Olmec vanished for reasons

That vanished with them.

Gone from the Gulf Coast in what is now South Mexico.

The difference is

I know why you vanished.

Although with time, it too will become a memory.

Your reasons will have vanished from my mind,

Like a culture has from our planet

Only remnants of jade left and fragments of Olmec statues,

And their obsessive love for the jaguar.

And with time, I will think of you like those ancient Olmecs,

Those mysterious people who created the first complex culture

In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

I will invent what I have to

(like any good archeologist).

I will find remnants of you, pieces of red clay

From which you have shaped into vases and other tokens

Of allegiance for a woman living thousands of miles away.

With time, I will wonder

Did I invent him?

I will think about the architecture of love, the commodity of it,

what remains after the concrete has been whittled away.

We have few remnants of the Olmec-

La Venta in Tabasco, all those mangrove swamps surrounding

The little island with its carved stone alters, its tall stone slabs.

They were the great sculptors of the pre-Columbian era

As you are the great sculptor during my era.


Jadeites, like diamonds, arise deep inside the earth.

As rocks are cooked at pressures so great

Their basic characteristics change.

I am in awe of the things that cause change.

The forces, natural and apocryphal, that cause us to evolve-

The catalysts, those things working in our favor-

The impetus for us metamorphose, to mutate and transform.

Whether being trapped inside the earth in heat so blasting

A Guatemalan volcano has to spew its ashy breath-

Or having an old friend come to stay for a week.

We change.

We change shapes and figures over and over again.

We exchange one body for the next, one precious

Stone for a different one.

One pleasure for another.


Jade used to be the most valuable stone in the world,

But over time its value diminished.

Who can explain why the value of something increases, decreases-

Why we fall in love with someone, as quick as the pressing

Of your face into their shoulder blade as you ride on the back of their motorcycle,

The wind slapping you with confirmation-

Yes! This is love!

Or a moment like the one when you watch them sleep

And a surge of protectiveness knocks you awake.

You want to make sure they take the next breath, and the next.

You want to watch them forever.

Who can explain why, like jade,

Love’s value decreases, unaccountably.

And all that is left: a little piece of red clay.

Who can explain why that same person you wanted to watch sleep forever,

That night, there on your couch,

the rise and fall of their chest a steady reminder

That you were safe, that there was some consistency in the world-

Why this same person makes you want to beat your fists against

Their chest and take back time.

Time with its representatives and monikers:

minutes, weeks, months, years, Forever.

With fists poised for a right hook

You want to beat at him, at anything-

Take Time back to before you existed

as someone in love with someone else,

Take Time back to before he existed as man.

Take it back to a memory,

Back to when it was simply jadeite trapped deep in the earth.

Those exposed veins of jade

The only reminder, buried under a tomato plant

that there was something once there.


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