MEXICAN GHOSTS
Anomalous Photograph Taken by Christopher Fulkerson, Ph.D.
July 28, 1998, at the Ex-Convento de San Francisco Tecamachalco, in Puebla, Mexico

by Christopher Fulkerson

CF's Composition Desk

Mexican Ghosts
Photo c Copyright 1998 by Christopher Fulkerson
This photograph, which was taken while I was on a musical tour, puts me in mind of a passage from the poem VENTS by the French poet Saint-John Perse:
"And thou, bottommost Sun, ferocity of the Being sans eyelids, just fix your puma's eye on this crust of precious stones! ... Hazardous the enterprise where I have taken the arc of this song."

For more of CF's translation of this canto CLICK HERE

For a larger versions of this photograph,
Including a detail of the faces
CLICK HERE

I took this photograph at an outdoor ruin of a convent in Puebla, Mexico, in 1998. I was on a tour as cantor with a group of men singing in a choir as guests of the Mexican Government. Our programs consisted mostly of chants from the Liber Usualis. We sang that evening in the church next door to the ruin; the church was a very large structure with an enormous and very awesome multi-tiered statuary alterpiece containing thirty or more lifesize statues, and had a very high ceiling. The nunnery, however, had been destroyed during the Revolution.
During a break several of us were outside and became intrigued with the curious ruin of the convent, which included several blind basement staircases that had been blocked up and led nowhere. After only a few steps these descending staircases ended abruptly in walls. This staircase was such a structure. The darkness you see in this photo is not that of an underground passage - the staircase terminates in a wall just a couple of feet further down.
In broad daylight and on only the most casual tourist impulse I quickly flashed a photo, intending merely to record the curious blind staircase, which reminded me of similar structures in ghost towns in my native California; at the time I did not see the pair of closely grouped faces, one of what perhaps the Mayans might call a "Jaguar Priest," (and therefore which seems to me not to be too far removed from the "puma" mentioned in the Saint-John Perse poem quoted on the right) or the ghost of one; the other a white face peeking from behind that face. It can be seen that the face which looks like some kind of partially perhaps-human, perhaps-Big Cat has a conspicuous hole at the top of its head. If you look carefully at the detail on the linked page, you can see that the white image appears to have its head staved in.
At the time I took the photo I had no idea of any unusual appearance. I did not know these facial images were in the photo until I picked it up at the developer's on Union Street in San Francisco, California. If the size of these heads were an indication of the size of the beings' bodies, I would have to say that there was not room in the blind stairwell for them to be there.
I include below a section of a poem by the Nobel Prize-winning poet who called himself St. John Perse. This extraordinary poem is about America, and was written in French by the poet, whose real name was Alexis Leger Leger, while he was in exile in the United States during World War II. The section I quote here is in my own translation, and seems to me to fit the photograph with extraordinary prescience.
Christopher Fulkerson

WINDS
by St.-John Perse
from Part II, Canto 6

And you can say to me: Where did you prize that out? Texts passed on in plain language! Versions given in dual aspects! ... You yourself headstone and cornerstone! ... And for your latest deceptions, I muster you to litigation in your reclining chair,
Oh Poet, Oh bilingualist, double-pronged betwixt all things, and you yourself litigation between all things litigious--man molested by god! Man speaking equivocally! ... ah! like a man deceived in a melee of wings and bristles, amidst cockfighting rough-legged buzzards!

And thou, bottommost Sun, ferocity of the Being sans eyelids, just fix your puma's eye on this crust of precious stones! ... Hazardous the enterprise where I have taken the arc of this song ... And there is still suspicious matter. But the Wind, ah! the Wind! Its power is without design and it is in love with itself.
We pass, and our shadows. Great works, page by page, are composed in silence in the lairs of the future, in the blear-eyed blind broodings. There we pick up our new writings, in pages stacked into cleaving schists....

from VENTS, written in 1945
Translation Copyright 2012 by Christopher Fulkerson

Posted July 17, 2012.

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