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The Destruction of Tenochtitlan; or, What I Did on My Summer Vacation

By
November 1, 2012

I would make,
it occurs to me one
sun-smeared evening after too much vodka, not
a bad Aztec. Slavic
for water. All week
this worship of the sun. This wine. This way
vacation has of asking us to suspend ourselves in automatically
vacuumed swimming pools. Or push
off from the continent entirely. Find
your body to be a needle in so much salt. So

was that great, glittering city lifted
from the earth. Its turrets
of gold. Its grandly
conceived sewer systems split
for drinking-water and waste. Where, from the dead
center of Texcoco rose staircased pyramids massive enough to make
even Montezuma lose himself. Sun
like a million Mark 1 warheads at the tip, a simile
I could only have written today,
on vacation in this world
the ancients never saw but whose violence, I
suspect, would not have shocked them. Who also,
remember, templed
men’s hearts. How
black the earth is and it is
there. Williams. World
I am too much with and which, I admit, I miss
this evening beneath another
blood-colored sunset. Suffering
is not beautiful, but maybe it is
necessary. Inevitable. Cortez
heard mass each day before setting himself again
to that methodical slaughter. In Colorado
last week, a twenty-something gunman
opened fire on a midnight cinema as I made
my way to the coast. The ocean
is calm tonight. I try
to remember what weapons
he possessed as I set my glass beside me in the sand. The military-grade AR-
15 assault rife. The high-
capacity magazines. My back
sinks deeper into the shifting sediment. I let
my body become heavy
until it becomes light.

G

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Author Image

Christopher Kempf received his MFA from Cornell University, and his work has appeared recently in The Journal, Prairie Schooner, and Sycamore Review, among other places. He currently lives in Oakland, where he is a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.

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