‘Gazelle of Unfended Láatsi’ by Antonio Bodega-Palabra

GAZELLE of Unfended Láatsi

They reach beyond the dust and sun of bloody mended Láatsi
And streams beyond the north and south offended Láatsi.

As Pithy mesquite muffs the bells across the fence
The rubberneck flawed gods rain fire on unfended Láatsi.

Dark riders on the range cry INFIDEL and kick the spittoon
While paths beyond the thermal caves lies fielded Láatsi.

Noble bust that watches from the haciendo porch
Rock eyes that tempt the lord of manored Láatsi.

Fat Tony to the treble of the trembling troubadour
Has shed the spurs and charro pins of slippered Láatsi.


Notes by Tark Mackintosh

Gazelle’ Although emended to Ghazal in the 1936 edition, we have retained Fat Tony’s original phrase. The sense of the title is, An elegant and bounding creature (Fat Tony) leaps from a burning Troy of modern times. The author makes frequent use of gazelle to refer to his own portly person in the rest of the collection. Markenbaldi of course championed the 1936 reading (cf. ‘Nuggets from Belullu’, Reviste Poetique 2004, Vol 15, iv-xxi).

dust…sun…bloody The year was 1924 — the setting southern Mexico. Morale was low and Los Decepcionados, the poet-revolutionaries at Hacienda Láatsi, were beginning to buckle under the stress and uncertainty of betrayal at the hands of their rival Guy Duvet, the poet gone rancher and federal informant who had set up base in the Oaxacan hinterlands.

offended Láatsi The internal rhyme is set, and it will be a past passive participle. In 1922 Guy Duvet, in cahoots with federal agents, had ransacked and partially burned Los Decepcionados‘ Hacienda Láatsi in a cowardly and unprovoked show of strength.

pithy…muffs the bells It is often informative to consider the influence of the Decepcionado Rusty Bell when bells are encountered in the works of the Láatsi poets. Bell was one of the more formidable gunfighters present at the ranch in the early 20s. OOOOOOOOOOR Fat Tony is talking about the Belullu Ceasefire in the aftermath of the West Fence Faceoff.

rubberneck flawed gods A clear reference to Generalísimo Félix Díaz, to whom the Los Decepcionados movement cleaved for a short time.

unfended The Belullu cowhand offensive took the Láatsi fighters completely by surprise. They were unfended.

kick the spittoon Ghastly contumely at the hands of the treacherous French-Canadians.

bust… / Rock eyes that tempt…lord The leader of Los Decepcionados, Gulliver S. Gulliver, had commissioned a bust of his lover Fedora Cardwardine (the Moon Queen) with Fat Tony, that for several years would sit gloatingly upon the porch and subsequently peer from various upper windows of Hacienda Láatsi. Apparently Guy Duvet was also enamored of the Mexico City socialite, who was rumored to have royal Aztec blood running in her veins.

Fat Tony The signature couplet, in which the author himself at last makes an explicit appearance. Fat Tony has shed the spurs and charro pins of slippered Láatsi: he fled the ranch in private shame in late 1924, never to return to his ancestral lands.

Photo by Roger Erdvig on Unsplash