I. La Vieja Machis

The wind lifts the wild, white mane
of La Vieja Machis, Lake Chapala Goddess.
She protects the lake from which she rises,
and guides the beings blessed to live
under its lacustrine sway.
Blowing from the four Directions,
she gifts the patterns of the winds
to fishers and farmers and poets.

Over the sea of the lake
she mediates the moon,
as month after month I learn
how to grow old like her.
Lake Woman Machis receives
the colors of the world,
and in her moving palette
mixes them continually.
Sometimes she stirs a whirlpool,
or flings to the clouds a waterspout.
Often her waters show me
the stillness of the mountains.
Always, she brings abundance
and floods the lakeside air
with the aromatic bromide of her soul.

It is she I call upon, the Old One—
not Teo-Michi-cihualli, fish goddess maiden,
not her smooth-skinned self,
uninscribed by time—
but she, I call, who lifts the furrows on her face
to hoot at youth’s simplistic view.
She, the old michin, whose soothsayer truths I need.
I ask La Vieja Machis
to grant to my third-age life
the steadfast weather of contentment.

Before the Spaniards came, the Coca people offered
tiny bowls to her in reverence,
gifts that to this day
surface from beneath the sands.
The people we call Huichol,
in their language, Wixárika, healers,
still hold her waters sacred.
What I offer La Vieja are the pieces of my heart.
I have flung a heartshaped pumice stone,
broken open, halved in sorrow,
into her beloved waters.
And pumice she returned to me,
a piece of lava on the beach
which she infused with healing.
With slight-of-waterhand, Vieja Machis
turns my burden into buoyancy.

Every day I close my eyes
and listen to the rhythm
of La Vieja Machis, dearest Machis.
I have heard her beat her fists
against the moon in a woman’s wail.
I have heard her healing cry,
I have unloosed my own.
I have heard her rolling tone,
her soothing, silky sounds,
her sensual, cadenced rustling.
As I listen to her very voice,
I hear her sorrow marry bliss.
She lullabies me in the morning and at night.
She satisfies my thirst,
and turns me into water.

The Lady of the Lake
envelops me, her daughter,
in her liquid arms.
Nuestra Señora del Lago
shows me how to change and flow,
so I let go solidity that never was.
She holds me and she frees me,
all my facets gathered
safely in her jeweled net.
I stand on the shore and call her name.
Old Machis! Goddess!
Guide me through your portal
into the power of age.

II. Nakawé, Great Grandmother Growth

Nakawe listens as no other listens.
What she hears, she makes:
dreamlike patterns in haunting colors,
spun from her cosmic listening.
If you are wedged in somewhere small,
your days the same, unmoving,
Nakawe can lift a bloom through any concrete tombstone
that may have flattened you.

Beneath the ground, Nakawe
weaves the trees in secret increase
through threads that link their roots.
Above the ground, she sings
the canopies of forests toward the sun.
She it is who drew your newborn
to his grownup stature.
Such a grandmother, Nakawe
grants expansion even when
we may heartily wish it not.

Forgiveness, too, is growth.
She hauls you from your knees
in that closet where you sob.
Blame falls away like scales
when Nakawe anoints your soul.
Once more you show the world
original grace and innocence.
And when the sunflower bends
sweetly back to earth,
this growing into oldness
is also Nakawe’s domain.

She herself, an ancient one,
tangled skeins of green and silver hair
whirling in the cosmos,
her skirt kaleidoscopic in the stars,
she hears your whispered longings
for enlargement, for renewal.
Listen to her guidance as she hears you into being!
And when she dances you her gifts,
do not oppose the pain of changing.
For Nakawe must stretch you
to your true and holy size.

III. Xochiquetzal, Gladdener

From her garden, blossoming
in the high Sierra Madre mountains,
the flower-and-song of living things,
Xochiquetzal brings.
She lifts your soul on wings
of a million butterflies.
Lovers call upon her,
and those who weave and make their wares.
Nahua women of power and pleasure
called her Gladdener, Gladdener!
An ancestor too, she is,
though the braid down her back is still nearly black,
only grey over those dancing eyes.
Voluptuous Xochiquetzal,
the one who never stops her streaming.
Can you bear her beauty?
Do you dare endure it?
Sit at her feet. Make yourself ready.
Partake of her gladness. Receive.