Reflections in a Smoking Mirror by Paul Pines


“The Quiche Maya, native to Guatemala and Belize, tell us that Gucumatz unfolded blue-green wings over the smoking mirror of primal water to bring forth humans who would honor the gods, but also reflect them. The dialogue among mortals, gods and the ancestors involved raising the Vision Serpent from the smoke of burning blood-soaked bark—a metaphor for consciousness that gives new meaning to the phrase “it’s all smoke and mirrors.” What is called forth speaks with a foundational voice from depths that are inaccessible by ordinary means.” In Reflections in a Smoking Mirror, Paul Pines writes of his search: “for what might be reflected in the Smoking Mirror, both as volcanic lake, and metaphor. … I’ve come to understand what I may have done beyond my intention, to let let the ancestors speak in ways that have not always been apparent to me, except for the blood-smoke on these pages.”

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  • Pages: 104
  • Language: English
  • Published: September, 2011
  • ISBN: 978-1-933675-60-2


“Infused with an eerily adept understanding of Latin American history and culture dating from the 15th century to modern times, their collective duende, REFLECTIONS IN A SMOKING MIRROR: Poems of Mexico & Belize, will come to stand as a monumental work and as a companion piece to the epic Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. This collection of poems takes on the true power of myth.” —Wayne Atherton

“REFLECTIONS IN A SMOKING MIRROR tells the story of the fall of an ancient, vibrant civilization to Spain’s conquistadors under Cortez. Pines’ language is intelligent and refreshing, his ideas provocative, his images striking, and his narrative—however tragic—dramatically thrilling. This book is a smoking mirror.” —Maurice Kenny

“These poems seem to be captured out of the mythic ether. They are like a grand illusion in a mirror we cannot stop ourselves from looking into, because the vision in Paul Pines poetry is the smoky reflection of our own spirits. These poems masterfully written with economical precision testify not only to the power of myth as life’s eternal narrative, but the way that narrative is ever-present in the synchronicities and intersections of our daily lives.” —Edgar Gabriel Silex



From the first
Moctezuma feared it
and took such precautions as he could
against the end
of his world

Crazy Horse
they’d all die singing or fighting
or ambushed
in their sleep

Only the Peace Chiefs
among the Crow
Cheyenne and Blackfoot decided to
stand the slaughter

in the belief
that even the annihilation
of their race
couldn’t reduce the Great Spirit
and might serve as a lesson
for the minds
of men


Paul PinesPAUL PINES grew up in Brooklyn around the corner from Ebbet’s Field and passed the early 60’s on the Lower East Side of New York. He shipped out as a Merchant Seaman, spending 65-66 in Vietnam, after which he drove a taxi and tended bar until he opened his jazz club The Tin Palace in 1973 the setting for his novel, The Tin Angel (Morrow, 1983). Redemption (Editions du Rocher, 1997), a second novel, is set against the genocide of Guatemalan Mayans. His memoir, My Brother’s Madness, (Curbstone Press, 2007) explores the unfolding of intertwined lives and the nature of delusion. Pines has published seven books of poetry: Onion, Hotel Madden Poems, Pines Songs, Breath, Adrift on Blinding Light, Taxidancing and Last Call at the Tin Palace. Poems set by composer Daniel Asia appear on the Summit label. As a translator he has contributed to Small Hours of the Night, Selected Poems of Roque Dalton, (Curbstone, 1996); Pyramids of Glass, (Corona 1995); Nicanor Parra, Antipoems: New and Selected, (New Directions,1986). He is the editor of Dark Times Full of Light, the Juan Gelman tribute issue of The Cafe Review (Summer, 2009). Pines lives in Glens Falls, New York, where he practices as a psychotherapist and hosts the Lake George Jazz Weekend.

Additional information

Weight 9 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in