One Poem by Christopher Locke

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Ordinary Gods

Guanajuato, Mexico


Not ashen with the rage of Popocatepetl
smothering blue nimbus of Mexican
sky, one body after another flung deep
into its untoothed char, Aztec sacrifices
even Cortés couldn’t stomach, his breastplate
mutely glinting to Franciscans everywhere,
which was nowhere. Not the volcano’s
sulfurous hands raising its body of smoke
higher than the wound itself; 17,000 feet
above the nonbelievers who thought steel
and gunpowder could quell superstitions. No,
not them. Nor others with names like hornets
nesting between the intake of breaths:

Cihuateteo, Itztli, Tezcatlipoca: Gods of stone,
the nocturnal sky and ancestral memory;
god protecting the spirits of women
who died in childbirth. Not even these.

I am talking the God of Purified Water:
the man slung miraculously with three
plastic jugs across his shoulders shouting
away the gray sheets of dawn as he climbs
the hills of my neighborhood; or the God
Singing His Ice For Sale
, raising heads still
drool-warm from their pillows; the God Running
the Scales of His Pan Flute
, music announcing
he is here to sharpen your knives, standing
loose-limbed in the alley, a mere few pesos,
cutlery flashing like the bright destruction
wrought by Cortés those years ago, when gods
were still plural and damnation not yet known.




“Ordinary Gods” is from Christopher Locke’s as-yet unpublished manuscript of the same name. Other poems and essays from the collection have appeared or are forthcoming in Slice, BULL: Men’s Fiction, Islands, The Nervous Breakdown, The Literary Bohemian, and Nowhere. His latest book of poems is Waiting for Grace & Other Poems (Turning Point, 2013). Discover more of his work at

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