The Garden of Fire

The Garden of Fire

Alberto Ruy Sánchez

Translated by Rhonda Dahl Buchanan

It smells of smoke and its pleasure has no bounds, as if it were the perfume of a rare flower, new to his garden, obtained with infinite patience. Many years ago, during a forest fire, this gardener discovered that roots continue burning beneath the ground long after the fire has supposedly been extinguished. It was then he decided to cultivate a garden of highly flammable roots, controlling their subterranean fire beds with buried channels of water in such a way that the flames sprout to the surface like bouquets of fire flowers igniting the thicket or trees he designates.

He walks in his garden of underground fires, sensing through his skin the heat that flows slowly beneath the ground. He designs routes and controls them, irrigating here and there the contours of his channels. And when at last the blazing flower opens where he wished, he recognizes in the burning plant the ephemeral perfumed blossom of his ardent fancy.

The network of roots, which he cannot see, contributes a great number of unforeseen fires to his harvest. Heat runs through unsuspected beds, surprising him when it breaks out where he least expects it. Then the beauty of his flowers becomes convulsive, brutal. A sudden elation comes over the gardener at that moment and the gleam of the flames in his eyes is kindled by the combustion in his mind.

When the sun kisses the horizon, the gardener sometimes imagines he planted that fire in the sky, that an unforeseen and invisible aerial root guides his fire to the clouds, converting them into flickers, embers, and finally charcoal.

He discovered that the night is actually endless coal and that the stars are tiny souvenirs of fire imbedded in the great carbon vault. Fossilized flowers. Then it occurs to him that it takes millions of years and millions of gardeners to tend his garden so that his blazing flowers may shine each night on their own. Meanwhile, when darkness falls over the garden, its master draws a celestial map with his radiant flowers, a geometry of shooting stars. At first he wanted to mirror the sky exactly, but later he was moved to sketch his own constellations.

Some come at night to read their destiny or that of their loved ones in the stellar drawing of this fiery field. And the curator of the Great Underground Library of Mogador proposes that more than a few revolutions, what he calls “fire in the human mind,” began as one of the glimmering flowers in this garden, and likewise, the roots of uprisings in China, Iran, or Patagonia extend back to this place.

Whenever the gardener sows, waters, and illuminates, he knows he is planting an unexpected spark in the world, that the beauty of his garden shakes empires, perhaps even burns stars in the firmament, dries rivers on other continents, demolishes skyscrapers in flames, and beheads kings.

There are also those who believe that each sudden blaze in this garden corresponds to a tragic passion. That neither Romeo nor Juliet, neither Abelard nor Heloise escaped the power of these roots that in a mysterious but sure manner reach all the way to the heart of certain people.

The other day the gardener was walking down the street and noticed two strangers, a man and a woman, staring at each other with desiring eyes. There were simultaneous sparks in their pupils, and judging from their intensity, the gardener knew in what part of his garden that fiery passion had originated because not all plants burn the same. So he ran to the southern orchard of dry palm trees to observe from his terrace the splendor of that spontaneous blossoming. And watching his garden, he knew in what moment the desire between that couple overflowed, how long they made love, and when their passion extinguished.

I think about this garden when I feel on your skin the warmth surging through your veins, when you slowly cross, intently, the few inches that separate us, as if you came from very far away. When your entire body guides me to the most intense heat within you, which little by little consumes me between your legs, those two great flames that, like an uncontrollable fire kindled by the wind, seize me, binding me to you.

I think about the happiness of this gardener when time and time again the joy of mutual possession burns in your eyes, when your mouth barely emits a crackle, the sound of a sudden flare. When you embrace me and you are embers, when you kiss me and you are that one who lets your entire body be filled with roots of fire, keeping alive forever the promise of a shining flower that ignites us.

*This excerpt was taken from The Secret Gardens of Mogador: Voices of the Earth by Alberto Ruy Sánchez. New York: White Pine Press, 2009

Posted: April 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm

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