Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ray Gonzalez: “The Destroyer of Compasses” (after Julio Cortazar)

The destroyer of compasses is my brother. He lies in the wet fields of war and dies young, his spirit rising above the soil to be trapped in the great books that tell a different story because magnetic north has been demolished, the master of compasses witnessing the coffin and flag draped with the glory of the weeping mothers and the lying generals that perform without the four directions turning their sweat to blood. The destroyer of compasses is my brother. He eats the same meal as I, though the bird of migration is set in its cage and cannot flee, its shriek waking the young and resolving the old. When the bird is eaten, the boy takes its compass apart, hiding the magnetic needle in his left ear, leaving the blazing feathers behind. He follows the vibration to the south where his family emerges wrapped in robes the savage priest left behind. The destroyer of compasses wants to be my brother, but I am too old to give advice, the glass on the compass touched by our father who doubted its magic—the devices of love and death hidden in the shoes of the stone men who refuse to be shown direction and drink the mud of their angry sons, the loyal followers, and the boys who insist they must defend the earth from its barren kind. The destroyer of compasses is my brother. He flies, lifting the sorrow of lies beyond the broken fields of rock where the compass refuses to point, its frenzy the dance in the engine of the heart, the compass the last circle spinning wildly before the young man finds out where he is bound.