The Secessionist

We left the city and headed north.
It looked like New Zealand, green,
fertile and messy, with weeds growing
along the wire fences and unmown berms.

A series of hairpin bends took us up a steep
hill, into what in any other country in
the world would be called ‘the mountains.’

The farm was not signposted
but the directions we’d been given were clear.
We left the paved road and soon came to a
fenced enclosure, in which there was herd of
cattle. We didn’t notice the calves
lying in the grass in the shadow of the fence
until we were almost on top of them.

Their mouths were broader than ordinary,
like hippos.
But they were warm, furry and smelt of milk.

One of the farmhands took us down to the homestead.
The interior was dark, with stained wooden panels on
the walls, and heavy wooden rafters.
There were animal skins on the floor, and,
opposite the one enormous window, a lurid
illuminated sign. It read, Bandon.

Flashing arrows and dots in different colours
with legends beneath them, written in cursive,
gave the history of Bandon, from the earliest
settlement to the time of the Mexican revolution.

Entering, the owner saw me looking at the sign,
apart from the window, the brightest thing
in the room. He told me about how the region
had been wrongly acquired, that it did not belong
as part of Mexico. He showed me a map.

On it, although it was very old, I could see
that Bandon possessed a natural border
in the hills we had crossed to get here,
from which it extended on a promontory
into the sea.

Were you ever a secessionist?’ I asked the man.
Yes,’ he answered.
Just then something nuzzled my leg.
I looked down to see a salamander the size of a
dog. I jumped.

I turned to the window.
It was filled by the head of a salamander,
its skin a mottled reddish-green and
purply-blue, like the one at my feet,
except this one was truly a giant.

Is that the mother?’ I thought, staggering back
towards the man, who, laughing, caught my
arm and held me upright.

I flung myself from his grasp
and hurtling through the gloom
of the dark hallway toward the light,
I discerned in the half-open bedroom
doorways along it

more giant salamanders at various ages
and stages of maturity, as if the entire
farmhouse was in fact some kind of a nest.

Alerted to my presence they were now
stirring, curious to see the new arrival.
Their bodies twisted and their tails thrashed

in the shadows as they lumbered forward,
their mouths open in lipless cracks
over the blue of their tightly
coiled tongues.