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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 1, 2018.
About this Poem 

"I have had the pleasure several times of teaching at Under the Volcano, a writing program in the beautiful Mexican town of Tepoztlán. Tepoztlán is known mostly as being the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl and the location for the first version of The Magnificent Seven. This past January, however, I found myself writing about the dogs and roosters in which the town most evidently abounds. At one level, I kept asking myself if the world really needs another rooster poem. Probably not. Even so, here it is.”
—Paul Muldoon

A Rooster in Tepoztlán

1
Confirmed in their belief there’s still a need
for worship prior to Lauds,
the street-dog choristers

insist on how
any three of them form a quorum.
However great the din

they’re eventually forced to cede
their urine-soaked sod
to a single rooster,

his beak the prow
of an imperial quinquereme
at the break of dawn.

2
Not that a rooster ever rues
the day of days
he first lowered the tone

by kicking up a fuss.
He specializes in splutter and spout.
Sometimes the bearer

becomes the bad news,
as when Augustus would parlay      
the cult of Diana

at Ephesus
into the out-and-out
worship of himself as Emperor.
                           
3
A rooster will pay cash on the barrel
to join the Praetorian Guard
but the flanking eagles betoken

our throwing off one yoke
even as we take on fresh burdens.
Left to his own devices, a rooster will don

the kind of gaudy apparel
more often associated with the bard—
the three-quarter-length tuigen            

or “feather-cloak.” 
That he has a sense of his own importance
is hardly something he’ll deny.

4
That wattle-ear was sliced
off a slave
by the self-same Simon Peter

who’d cover it with a tissue
of lies… The blue gel,
the iodine,

the ice-pack ice.
The pigs who’ve had a close shave
in the abattoir

are in such a daze
they can’t tell
Gethsemane from the Garden of Eden.

5
The rooster’s claws are tempered by calcium
derived from the forearm
of a devotee of Saint Francis Xavier

going for broke
as he sawed the heart from a yucca
or agave. The rooster himself would never deign

to take a shortcut to Elysium
via fermented sap. Beating his breast on a farm
is learned behavior

but the tendency to stroke
his own ego                             
is pretty much baked into his DNA.

6
From the top
of the rubbish tip on which he’s parked
he rubbishes any duenna

trying to pull rank.
His hens are rumpled. Raggedy-ass.
Most statements issued from his pilaster

of slow-cured adobe
are followed by an exclamation mark!
A sheet of corrugated tin

is his main plank.
“When oh when,” he blubbers, “will this cup pass?”
All bully-pulpitry. All bluster.

7
For it’s very rarely a cup of joy,
the cup
that runneth over.

More a seed-bleed
from the agave’s once-in-a-lifetime pod.
More a fairground tune 

from a wind-up toy
winding us up
for what seems forever.

Till the street-dogs have once again treed
a god
somewhere on the outskirts of town.

Copyright © 2018 by Paul Muldoon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Paul Muldoon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Paul Muldoon

Paul Muldoon

Born in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, in 1951, Paul Muldoon is the author of numerous collections, including Moy Sand and Gravel, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

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2
poem
I.

I gave you back my claim on the mining town
and the rich vein we once worked,
the tumble down
from a sluice box that irked

you so much, the narrow gauge
that opened up to one and all
when it ran out at the landing stage
beyond the falls.

I gave you back oak ties,
bully flitches, the hand-hewn