A Dinner Date With Michael Stipe
Over a meal at one of his favorite restaurants in New York City, the former R.E.M....
I met my past and future selves in a Museum in Mexico.
In Mexico I was told it was possible to move in time
and space simultaneously, so I wasn’t alarmed to see
that long-ago brooding, skinny self, or the Future Me
drinking mescaline, holding a coat of flayed skin.
I’d hoped for greater scale, but still. Listen—
we wandered around, the three of us, listening
to the history of Olmec heads, and how in Mexico
the lines between the living and the dead are as thin as skin.
My past self, partial to the practices of earlier times,
marveled at distended thighs and necklaces. For me,
she said, it all points to the glories of motherhood. See
here—interjected Future Me. All these breasts you see
and phalluses. All this fertility flagellation, for what? Listen
sister, sex may be important, but babies aren’t for me.
It’s tough to undermine the insistencies of time in Mexico.
In Mexico you can repeat yourself a million times
and still be singing through your bones and skin
like the goddess Cihuateotl, she of serpent skin—
patron saint of those who die while giving birth. We see
her in a cage of glass, palms upturned, singing of a time
when mother spirits spun like warriors with the sun. Listen
to this excellent promotion of motherhood. In Mexico
they used to worship skirts—reminding me
of my own country’s zeal for female deities. Me?
I think it’s all been subjugated, fumigated, skinned
and mutilated like those girls in the barrios. In Mexico
they have a name for it: Feminicidio. I long to see
a clearer vision for wayward women who list
between the knowing and unknowing. In time,
dear past and future selves—in time
we will resolve our joint concerns. Just leave me
for a moment with these Aztec gods to listen
at the crossroads. I may never hold creation in my skin,
but I will always dream it. This is the fate I see
for my selves and me in a Mexican museum. In Mexico
I offered up my coat of skin for a chance to see
the Future Me. And in that raw, bedraggled light of Mexico
I saw a woman vanquishing the bones of time. And I listened.
This sestina was written specially for Departures by Welsh Indian poet Tishani Doshi, whose new collection, Everything Begins Elsewhere (Copper Canyon Press), comes out in June. It was inspired by the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, Mexico.