Size / / /

Content warning:


Travel accounts from long ago declare
   there is an ‘air of weirdness’ about me, amplified by geometric designs
and a landscape of arid cordilleras,
   punctured by prickly tuna, maguey, and violet jacaranda.

No writing can account for my grandeur, no human can explain my origins.
   I laugh at those self-aggrandizing figures
who build bridges between the dead and the living. To link these worlds
   is a dangerous, questionable feat,
but the true human folly lies in their presumption. They do not have permission.


Pastel sunset hugs my body as I hear voices from the metal cloisters.
   I sigh and heave
rubble bubbling and gray soil shifting beneath my weight. They evacuate,
   these experts of my biography, stewards and conservadores.

For a moment, I feel relief but I worry that
   with every aching tremor, the agony of the world will fragment me, consume me.
Preservation suddenly feels not enough.
   This reminds me of another cuento, or story. I might also say to you:
this is true history.


One day a small man came to the land of the dead. But this is the living land of the dead!
   We may now call it Mitla
from the language of one of the colonizers, Mictlan, but my people, my owners,
   are Zapotec.
We are in Lyobaa, place of the souls. Here, the living dwell with the dead. This man declares
   his presence: I am Leopoldo Batres!
I hear Sus Ley (Old Stone Woman)’s voice emanate from her petrified form in Mount Guirún.
   “Do not trust him.”

My restoration becomes—it is considered—a blasphemy. Leopoldo’s architectural artistry
   takes a heavy hand.
I do not believe in this “science” of truth, but this mustached man speculated too far.
   He did not listen
to my inheritors, he dispossessed them in his increasing fervor to conjure up the past.

The ghost of a priest I once knew
   pays their dues and visits me one night. Admiring my freshly colored body,
he comments on Leopoldo’s art:
   “He may not be Zapotec, but he has refreshed your skin, you glow.” I am a vibrant red.
Like blood.


In the past, I’ve been caressed by rituals that enliven the bonds between this world
   and the Spirit World.
The spaces within me both heal and house oracular properties. Long before Leopoldo,
   another angry group—Spanish colonizers—
arrived to Lyobaa. I watched this turn into a true land of the dead. Bodies splayed, but
   not to a god,
I heaved and froze as hordes of Spanish pulverized the oracular stone jewel, killing
   the heart of the world.

Now, I sit reluctantly on my heavy haunches, crouching behind metal gates erected
   by a governmental bureaucracy
who believes itself to understand why I was made and from whence I came. Ha!
   “They are all the same,”
Sus Ley often says with a stony rasp. Here is another cuento, a story. Or is it history?


I am different from Sus Ley, who is sometimes called Sus Giber. I never
   served anyone.
She cooked for and was mother to legendary Montezuma. I give shelter, I protect. I am not
   a petrified supernatural,
but I am un antiguo, one of the Ancient Ones. I was built before the rising of this world’s sun,
   during a time
when darkness cloaked the earth. It was all we ever knew. And when my world passed from

one temporal order to the next, your sun flooded our horizons with neon fire that at once
   illuminated every surface and
petrified or killed every being. Some escaped, fleeing into my innards, subterranean tunnels
   the Spanish later wrote of as
cursed bocas del infierno. But I am not Hell, this would insult my neighbor below me.
   I am a deity, an ancestor.


Don Leopoldo painted me an off-shade of crimson more than a century ago. Or is it more?
   There are so many times
and the next temporal order will arrive soon. I have seen empires fall. I am not a thing
   to be possessed,
let alone dislodged from my community. The descendants know what I am and who I am.
   I defy boundaries.

“Although I have passed through you before, I do not recognize what lies behind me
   or before me,” Sus Ley echoes
from Guirún. She tells this to me every day, too. I am now a national monumental zone,
   but when the moment is right,
I will free Sus Ley and rescue my people. I will be Mitla’s once again.

Morgan L. Ventura is a Sicilian-Irish American writer, folklorist, and anthropologist, living between Canada and Mexico. Ventura's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Augur Magazine, Phantom Drift, and Ghost City Review (among others), while their essays appear in Geist Magazine, Folklore Thursday, and Jadaliyya. They tweet @hmorganvl.
Current Issue
23 May 2022

My family and I / lived and dined / and enjoyed sunny picnics / and celebrated Christmas / with the bones inside us / silently howling
Would the rightful owners of these 17 bodies please turn up to claim them?
"When I can't move, I write, and those two things are deeply connected."
Upstairs, the prime minister is meeting with all the party members because they are worried about how to save themselves. As in, just themselves and no one else.  Because they are selfish fucks.
Let’s strive to make the best art we can, but never from the starting point of fear, but of personal honesty.
Wednesday: The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel 
Friday: To Climates Unknown: An Alternate History of a World Without America by Arturo Serrano 
Issue 16 May 2022
Issue 9 May 2022
Podcast: 9 May Poetry 
Issue 2 May 2022
By: Eric Wang
By: Sara S. Messenger
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Sara S. Messenger
Issue 18 Apr 2022
By: Blaize Kelly Strothers
By: Ken Haponek
Podcast read by: Blaize Kelly Strothers
Podcast read by: Ken Haponek
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 11 Apr 2022
Issue 4 Apr 2022
Issue 28 Mar 2022
Issue 21 Mar 2022
By: Devin Miller
Art by: Alex Pernau
Podcast read by: Courtney Floyd
Issue 14 Mar 2022
Strange Horizons
Issue 7 Mar 2022
Load More
%d bloggers like this: