In most of our fantasy stories, the magic works to make things better, even if it’s a dangerous force. Then there’s this story from Sabrina Vourvoulias.
Before the candles, before the stoles and bells, before the cop—I get the call.
Every people to their duty.
This is an epic written in collective, changing every time the street tells it.
This is a vernacular cantar de gesta.
This is the legend of son, brother, daughter, sister, over whose broken body we spill words and tears.
This is, today at St. William, the story of one who lived two decades in the six–eight time of bachata, rumba clave, and gunfire.
Part one: Which treats with Kings and subjects
Back in the day, in the Badlands
the Kings filled outstretched hands
with powdered need. Los compais were old school,
wielding needle and steel and razored sense of honor.
This corner is where Loco, the crazy King,
swore on his life that he was not plotting
to kill his brother, to change line of succession and game.
The next street is tagged with his name,
and the memory of regicide. Loco’s crown rolled
at the same time the triumvirate ascendant tolled—
with güiro and tambora—the beat of their absolute rule.
Into this kingdom, Alonso Quijano y Campeador
had been born twelve years before. Along with his sister Amor
(Loco’s only natural children), he was fated to live in hock
to myth, maps, and Kings. His uncle etched a street on Alonso’s chest,
mapping the Kings’ territory, twice tagging new property: Tierra propia.
Alonso bore tracks, scars, tattoos, but found his magic in the ink. Not copia,
but safeguards hidden in the Kings’ neighborhood. Amor never dealt or used.
Instead she danced the tithe demanded by the Kings, and not once confused
debt for honor. It was she—beautiful, dark, and hard–eyed—
who fought to fight. We must find a way to shove aside
what is not destined but imposed, she said, as her brother’s skin wept.
Bloodlines can be ball and chain,
enchantment of lots drawn at random or planned for gain.
Amor exacted a vow from the King who knocked her up.
Thus, in her eighteenth year, Alonso’s sixteenth, and Muñeca’s first hours,
they were finally freed from Loco’s promissory. With evil past, she said
(echoing el famoso hidalgo) good must be close at hand. So it was Amor who led
them out of the Badlands to a home on Rising Sun.
That first day on the Avenue, Alonso inked new protections so none
would breach their grates, grilles, or bars. And when he came inside: Sana,
sana, colita de rana. Si no sanas hoy, sana mañana…
Amor spread sábila and Spanish on his homeland of scar and brand.
An interlude for the saltimbanquis…
It is the way of the low–born wordsmith to break up the story with a bit of puppetry, somersaults, maybe some singing.
Today, at St. William, the marionettes dance on strings of Spanish, Khmer–tinged French, and Krèyol. Prayer in the mother tongue is what the body follows into the afterlife.
Marionettes are little Marys, and today my tumbleset rolls backwards and forwards to a spritely hymn heard often in this place: Santa María del Camino.
Saint Mary of the way, of the paths, of the map of roads we walk, sometimes by force, sometimes by choice, sometimes because they are written on our skin.