DRIVE A LITTLE WHY DON’T YOU

STATUE

Grown men stare because she is beautiful
boys stop, with or without their parents’ consent
because she has painted herself blue

everybody waits for her to move
for her lips to tremble, her breasts to rise
so her lungs can take in air

nobody believes that she remains a statue
her quiet has stretched beyond her skin
her mission accomplished

She has penetrated the swirl of Grand Central Station
with her silence
made me question my rush, my reasons for being

on time
we’re all jealous of her will
of her courage to sit motionless in front of strangers

I don’t need to see her breasts rise (or fall)
to know that she breathes secretly
air sweeter than the stuff I inhale

I know that her heart beats like a fire
just like all the hearts
in every statue.

*****************************

PRESENCE

I heard myself laugh
like you today
Don’t worry, I didn’t replace my own
just seemed to add yours to my vocabulary

A short burst of air
accompanied by a sigh of a sound
an exclamation mark to an unexpected happening
it’s not something that I planned

or even tried to do
I’m pretty sure laughter stands in the same line
as all the other things out of our control
(try as we might)

An act that happens to remind us
of the presence of our heart
and in this case to remind me
of the presence of you.

****************************************

DRIVE A LITTLE WHY DON’T YOU

The road is the one place
where the only thing familiar
is that pack of cigarettes

an incredible comfort when it finds your fingers
and you remember
Twenty friends in every packet.

No need to talk to any stranger
you want for nothing
being in possession of twenty tools

and the means to bring each to life
On this road
the one place
never conquered by man.

************************************

A DUCK IN KATMANDU

The body is separated from the head
a gruff man carries one part in either hand
he’s obviously found greater pleasure in other tasks
much like the boys now
that he carries by their ears

one had held while the other had pulled
how else does a duck’s head become separated from its body?
Their parents should be ashamed.
That’s exactly it. They’re all dead, or should be.
(Govinda is talking in his quiet voice)

We found them in the street, we are trying.
You need to try harder, the man scours
You shouldn’t protect thieves!
then leaves with the forty rupees he demanded
he would kill them otherwise

and his neighbors would have understood
in Katmandu, ducks are more precious than children
brains are sometimes separated from brawn
fresh blood
stains the carpet.

******************************************

MEXICO
You painted the picture
with dirty brushes and oils of harsh hues
but I find the bristles clean
to have been soaked for many nights
in soapy concoctions mixed by hand

Only then were they laid to dry
beneath a piercing sun
until the bristles became stiff, erect with possibilities
dipped deep into plastic buckets
filled with brilliant arrays of color.

How the yellows of fresh dandelions dive into forest-fire reds
emerging into not quite ripe oranges
and dark, depressed Chicago blues make love to petals of roses
giving birth to the purple left on one’s arm
after being hit very hard

Nothing here is left untouched by the delicate hand of the painter
Perhaps the paint itself is of the special stuff
because it doesn’t just cover up
the skin of every storefront
but seeps through the surface

Maybe it’s the canvases themselves
that are able to drink
what the colors have to offer
broad palm leaves
after a much anticipated rain

******************************************

WHEN I WROTE MY FIRST POEM

He asks me for water, wants nothing more
hasn’t even thought about my money
(really)

When he hears my attempt at Spanish, he changes lanes without a hitch
now he walks on the paved road
on which I am more comfortable

Curious for an old man dressed in rags
begging for water in Mexico City
After I pass my bottle he confides.

When I wrote my first poem I knew I could never be content again
because I knew the most vulgar men in this world
would be my friends.

*****************************************

TOUGH KID

I crawl out of the lush mountains of Mexico
and try to enter Guatemala
el corazón de la Maya
the heart of the Maya
but land runs between the two countries, land that belongs to no one
that needs to be crossed
in order to enter again.

The driver of a tattered station wagon offers its services
a stern gringo sits in the back, impatient with another delay
It’s a good deal, he says.
That was easy.
Statuettes of Jesus are glued to the dashboard
photographs of Mother Mary swing from the rear view mirror
alongside three pictures of young starlets in string bikinis.

I’m reminded of New England
driving with parents of friends in similar vehicles
Rusted cars that smelled of smoke and potato chips
with pennies between the cushions and seatbelts that had never been worn
glasses of iced tea resting between our father’s thighs
that only much later
we learned to contain more than a hint of whiskey.

The driver propositions an old Mayan woman
and then a younger Indian with a baby in her arms
I offer my seat in the back but the driver smiles
Gringos would be accommodated in the manner we had grown
comfortable
the Indians could squeeze
They were used to being squeezed.

There are sharp turns in the road but he can predict every bump and hole
with the windows rolled down, I imagine he imagines himself a king
Relative to the men in the silver mines that most likely dig alongside his father
he most certainly is
In the cracked rear view mirror he catches my eye
is reminded his seat is no throne
that he is one man in a long line of men that serves the white man.

The realization works his way down his leg
pushing the car even faster
the weight of all the passengers shifts to the right
with the centrifugal force of the turn
this time my belly is not the only thing to buckle under the pressure
to the right of the driver, alongside the mother
the door blows open

plastic bags of eggs, tortillas, shirts, thread
are all sucked onto the highway
her baby is the last thing to leave her arms
she screams as the driver slows the Impala
leaps out before the car comes to a complete stop
a line of broken eggs leads the way to the baby, stretched onto her back
motionless on the pavement.

The driver, the old woman and I stand alongside the mother
knowing there is no consolation for a mother holding her dead child
(yet we reach out to her just the same)
Perhaps the combination of our efforts is more powerful
than each on it’s own accord
Somewhere beneath the mother’s cries, muffled by her breast, the baby whimpers
the driver claps his hands, Vamos!

His hands tremble against the wheel
The older American is the first to comment
Tough kid, he says.
He had not uncrossed his legs during the entire ordeal.