September 23, 2021 by The Citron Review
eat the tail to start again
by Kaidi Stroud
What I am about to tell you may sound like myth. It has no beginning, no end. Just different stages. Forms. Iterations. But everything I say is true. Everything you see is true. It is true, also, the word “true” is problematic. Verdad. Kweli. Sahih.
True. True. True.
There is space between us where truth flits and reality slips. Even silence — listen — groans with the shift.
And thus our story begins in paradox; our story begins in water.
Millions of years ago, the part of Utah now known as Bryce Canyon was covered by the sea. As water came and went, sediments were deposited in colorful layers of purple, lime, and red. The result was sculpted rock formations.
These formations live up to their name, the Hoodoos. Rounding curves and ducking through free-standing archways, one half expects to come face to face with rock dwellers who, with the wave of long, spindly fingers, might beckon curious visitors toward secret lairs of their architectural design.
Perched 5,785 feet high atop one of these rocky landings, a casual climber can eat a package of peanut butter crackers and dangle feet over a ledge. This landing holds sightseers atop a hoodoo world. On such solid surface, it is hard to admit that rock portends a false sense of permanence.
From the bottom of this red rock garden, surrounded by spires of precariously balanced boulders, a visitor senses this once-in-a-lifetime-view. Water created hoodoo landscapes; it also continues to change it. Snow and ice in winter expand in the cracks and crevices, forcing breaks. Spring thaw heaves rocks into surprising new shapes. Walking under impossible overhangs, hikers hold their breath and pat rocks as if willing them to stay.
Silent and stealthy, the force behind this awe-inspiring landscape may seem gentle and meek: a trickle, a puddle, a drip.
Hoodoos stand warning; water shapes the thing that holds it.
urges to snow-angel,
make tracks, carve initials;
lay down in an “x,”
mark your spot —
it won’t be permanent.
A cheek pressed to snow,
melts a dazzling,
imprinted in its
own snow grave.
warn about drinking
too much water.
It drowns the body
from inside out.
For life forms,
salt and water
To drink enough —
in a grassy field,
behind a head,
gaze cast skyward:
cloud- suspended visions —
a dragon, medusa,
ouroburos’ perfect coil
is it really there
or is it
what Bob Dylan meant
when Louise held
a fistful of rain
tempting us to defy it?
space between us
not truth remember
waves (on youth’s shore)
drawn to the edge,
shoes in hand,
a silvery reflection in the distance,
a circle, the moon,
lapping bare toes
beneath your feet
you were alone
you weren’t —
warm, humid air
droplets on skin
sea foam bubbled
you still hear the thud of shoes
slipped from fingertips
that first step,
a cold shock,
water to your knees,
your shirt billowing on the surface
like a strange jellyfish
hair sunburst rays
memory you became
True. True. True.
And that is why our story begins in a body of water that translates to Eternal Spring.
Epecuen, Argentina. January 25, 1930. This is the year the villa, nestled next to the last of six lagoons in an endorheic basin, became home to Pablo Novak, and it was Pablo’s father who would lay many of the bricks that built the town. Miles from the ocean, Pablo would ask his father why the waters of the Laguna Epecuen were so salty.
He paused to adjust his hat. Squint into middle distance. “There is no love without pain. No water sin sal.” The answer answered nothing, but Pablo nodded solemnly.
A young Pablo grew up alongside his hometown. As word of therapeutic powers in the laguna’s salty waters spread, the town buzzed with lore and popularity. From the train station, Pablo watched passengers from Buenos Aires deboard arm-in-arm, glitzy and eager to experience the healing properties of mineral rich waters. Likewise, his city boomed with business: the Parque Hotel with its crystal-clear swimming pool, the Coradini bake shop full of sweet breads and cakes. Epecuen had arrived as a vacation destination.
From November to March, Pablo could always find a pretty young girl to dance with at the theater. He lived in perpetual respite, a hazy dreamland of late-night music, rejuvenating soaks, possibility, magic.
When unusually heavy rains came in 1985, dogs and cats inexplicably vanished. When rains didn’t stop after ten days, then twenty, the townspeople finally understood they would need to follow suit.
November 10, 1985 embankment reinforcements broke; water swallowed Epecuen whole, flooding it under depths of ten meters.
The story could end there, under water, but it doesn’t.
After 25 years, silvery-white Epecuen began re-emerging. With it, returned a silvery-white Pablo.
The detritus now includes trees stripped of limbs, spearing into the sky like painted, white skewers. Cement rubble in uneven stacks aside bed frames and tires. Buildings in various degrees of disrepair. All stunningly preserved in a salty white layer. A place forever entombed. Cured like meat.
Yet — the rhythmic, rusty squeak of Pablo’s bike cuts through gusty winds. His tire tracks snake through sand. Chorno, his dog, pants beside him as he pedals his rounds past stairs to nowhere, disrupted tombs, el Matador. A knobby, sun-tanned finger points beyond ruins as he re-envisions the past for visitors.
Pablo is the sole occupant of Epecuen. Stoic in his resolve to bear witness. A tour guide of vestiges.
Kaidi Stroud is a Boise-based educator and freelance writer. Her work has been published in Lonely Planet, the Idaho Statesman, Idaho Press, The Cabin’s Writers in the Attic, and Idaho Magazine (forthcoming). When she’s not wrangling kids, pets, or words, she enjoys the outdoors, live music, public libraries and good questions.