Before entering that darkened igloo of palo de monte branches and foliage I’d seen old Esperanza’s morning bones tearing apart leaves and scrubbing them in a basin, turning the water a cold pale green. I could smell unknowable herbs amidst the branches of elder, rue and rosemary. We crawled in one by one and were told to kneel. Smoke filled the hemisphere and Esperanza splashed our faces with the fresh green water that turned to steam on our skin. Fluids and sediment—each pore seemed to yield a messy runnel as she walloped my chest and testicles with her hot and watery branches. Told to stand I swooned momentarily at the zenith with more liquid thrown on the embers. You took my arm, held me tightly. Six sweltering nipples and the closeness of us all. The violent smoke rampaging through the bronchi and settling, nestling in what felt like a third central lung that filled itself hungrily. The ancient heat of the earth’s core balled in my centre. Listen to the rain, listen to the sound of your body being cleansed, she told us. Patter of heavy drops from my head, from my nose, from your breasts, from the estuary of my lumbar regions as I pulled my shorts to my ankles and surrendered to the marshlands of my own flesh. When it ended we crawled out and she wrapped us in blankets and sent us to lie down on her bed. A brief sleep while she prepared the huichin infusion. The rising vapours from our blanketed bodies unphotographable in the delicate light. The damp horizon through the glassless window. The taste of the tea.
Text by Dylan Brennan Photographs by Liliana Pérez