Category Archives: Juan Morales

#158 UNEARTHING SKELETONS AT THE PUYÉ RUINS (1934) by Juan Morales

From the Ildefonso Pueblo, the men ride
in pickups for good wages, meager lunches,
hands rubbed raw, full work days.  They know
stories of the dead rising to life
but still they go.  Out in blustery heat,
where the archaeologist points,
Ildefonso men spade and shovel the site
where skeletons stir:
Don’t take me out.  Don’t take me out.

The excavation reveals rotted walls, fire pits,
a field of graves.  When the first man finds
a skeleton, he pulls away from its grip.
Pales and collapses dead.  With the stunned
crew carrying him home, they shudder
at the skeleton, who clawed into the digger’s feet.

From holes and deepening trenches
come spewing dust, shovel scrapes,
men hauling boxes of dirt.  From Ildefonso men,
who flee to higher ground, come terrified voices,
recoiling from newfound skeletons.  Clouds darken
the sun.  Some men vomit when
skeletons plead, Don’t take me from this ground.

At the mesa’s excavation site, the skeletons
assault every Ildefonso man.  With guilt and fear
worming inside, they quit digging.
The archaeologist takes what he can, crates up
the deads’ secrets, and shipping them away.
The Ildefonso men return for good, hauling
to their dwindling village a plague
from Puyé skeletons unearthed and stirred to life.

Juan J. Morales is the author of the poetry collection, Friday and the Year That Followed, and has published in many journals.  He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, he is a CantoMundo Fellow, and he directs the Creative Writing at Colorado State
University-Pueblo.

#68 ON JUAN’S CAPTURE OF SEÑORA CHONITA 1897 by Juan Morales

In a dirt-drawn circle, Juan waits.
Nightfall.  The old people say
boys and men, blessed with the name Juan,
hold the power to catch witches.

To trap Señora Chonita, he wears
an inside-out shirt like superstitious travelers
afraid of her curses.  While he scratches
his neck red, eyes adjusting to dusk,

a coyote noses into the plaza,
the way witches become orbs of light
wandering between villages.

The coyote sees him, sniffs the air,
enters the circle.  Juan yells, ¡Venga, bruja!

The coyote panics and shakes, fur melting
to cold naked skin. She crouches,

squints at him. Juan never stops fearing
Señora Chonita even when townspeople,
clutching torches and bullied prayers, loom

over her just before they kill her.  Forever after
Juan is trapped, like a witch in a circle,
afraid of feeling the grip of clawed hands
dragging him into the desert.

Juan J. Morales is the author of the poetry collection, Friday and the Year That Followed, and has published in many journals.  He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, he is a CantoMundo Fellow, and he directs the Creative Writing at Colorado State
University-Pueblo.

#11 THE LOSS OF JUAN PEREA’S EYES by Juan Morales

Every night, Juan Perea becomes
a cat.  He inserts borrowed eyes
into sockets, and on the table,

rests his eyes in a saucer.
Assuming cat’s tail, body arch,
he tiptoes between houses.
He recites hexes burned

into memory
like cooked cat bones.
He delivers curses to neighbors—

worms poisoning food, mice growing
inside stomachs, the stealing
of a man’s beating heart
until the morning he returns home,

drops to his knees before
the upturned table, hungry dog
devouring his eyes.