nicholas nicola etchings


                                                        47  Fire-eater

                                                  B&W. 3"X5". zinc plate. Palenque. Mexico. S

On the way to going to the Palenque ruins from the station I witnessed a man putting on a fire breathing performance in the main street of the town. Naturally enough a crowd had formed around him. As the man ‘drank’ more petrol from his can to breathe out ever more fire I couldn’t help but sense a certain quiet desperation in his manner, a tragic figure unromantically compelled to perform a dangerous feat to earn some money for himself and family.  

I include the following poem which I wrote where the fire eater is given a passing mention and  which starts off with this visit to Palenque in 1992 before moving on in the poem to Merida on the Yucatan peninsular in  Mexico (I also visited this country in 1986):



The flames shimmered in the reflection of the dull duco

 The flames spewed from his parched mouth

 The head was hidden by a column of fire

 Only in the tight muscles of the hand which held the canister did there remain a visible sign to his desperation

 The blackness spewed down a star while the morning light sucked up the dew

 Their bowed faces were hidden by their broad brims while they swept before the iron mouth

  He was from Guadalajara and held up his hand to refuse the offer of reimbursement

  In another time another man from the same city boarded a bus in Dallas and looked for my support in Brownsville

  I walked through the ruins and rummaged through other memories

  In the afternoon heat she silently waited in the long queue holding her black umbrella as a shield

 She watched the towering machine which pulled down the dough to manufacture the tortillas she would purchase

 He diligently cleaned the machine saw he used to cut the meat he had left outside on hooks for the flies to vomit on

The boy took the ten cent coin and eyed the lyre bird while speaking in slow Spanish, listening patiently to the slow voice

 His elderly mother and his elderly father and himself farewelled me when the dusk train arrived

 There was no light and an old woman’s voice could be heard in the dark carriageway

 There were the silhouettes of bodies who paced the night aisle selling their wares and in unison were calling as if in an Ancient Greek Chorus

 There was a station where in another time two of us had waited till midnight huddled with the poor as if all together we were refugees escaping from some war

 Men are sleeping and other men sing while the man opposite holds his machete and in the morning there are the village huts where people are scantily dressed and the children look unhealthy

 The women and their employer speak inside the market and from their stall offer a cool liquid and there is tranquillity and there is a Spanish wall near the sea and there is a tranquil breeze

 The train arrives at midnight where the sweeping roof of the station is a reminder to Paris Norde

 There are two old female indigenous who no one will help carry their heavy pots from the platform to the station and so the three of us sleep together

 Where there had been another time when two of us had slept the first night in the zocola

 There are the sleeping shivering homeless men at this tourist destination


 Lets sit in the zocola

  Where its fun sitting in these chairs where we can face each other where we can talk to each other where everyone is trying to sell us hammocks, gold chains, panama hats

 Those sunglasses

 Suit you

 Very trendy

 Very fifties

 I like the pointy bits


The end


 You look so hip

 With your short

 blonde hair

 And your shorts  

 What sort of country is this where people must cover their faces in demonstrations?

 We walk the length of the beach passing an Australian woman wearing a Burning Bridges t-shirt

 You have read in Le Monde of Aboriginal deaths in custody?

 So you think it is a disgrace?

 Of course!

 It’s a shame

 It is raining


 We notice in the restaurant garden of a fishing village that there is above the tables plastic bags of water tied to the posts that hold up the lightweight roof. The women say they keep the flies away. I say in Australia people place plastic bottles filled with water on their front lawns to keep the dogs off them.

 We walk past

 The busy noisy wooden drinking bars

 A bus comes every half hour?

 You think the video on this bus is racist?

 They use chicano actors who live in L.A?

 You think it makes all Columbians

 Look like peddlers?

 Yes, you wonder

 Why there is a market












Pretty flowers and trees

For the people of South and Central America




El Salvador



Costa Rica






French Guiana









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Cheap places

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