Variations on Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic
I like the black & white. I like
the mirage they create. I like
planes. I like stray dogs
who never forget where I come from.
I like when my mother flings
her bridal sheets over the clothesline,
she sweeps the canvas with a stroke
so subtle, day light
blots out the night
and every flying thing breathes
its vertical breathing,
every breathing thing wakes
to the impalpable span
of another dark season.
I remember the morning serenity
shattered the chandelier
a council of crows
clouded the twisted torso
and over the lake
the composition of a young man
like a mist breaks the waters.
What makes the light so white
the erasure of a town
comes to mind. No line
of trees left behind
by a cluster of bombs saying
here's God, or the lack of it,
trapped in a throat
the whole cranium cracks
its own geometry.
Even evening gores
its horns into the coppice
of blackbirds, the tone
so precise the clatter
of a building disperses
and is down like a monument.
Of those countries, the volcanoes
remain the best.
What makes night fall out
like a tent? Catch the rain?
Take the shape of a wave
as if a wave could roof a mind?
What compost? What composition?
What clarity can I come to?
Everyone knows the bull
stumbling like a medieval god
wrecks the fabric
of the furrow. The desolate plow
whispers to the ground
and the splendid soil
feeds the gospel of the body.
In a road like this, one might understand
the periphery of trees,
how they dot the skyline,
how the mind leaves out
the gray, how it begins
to sag, to tear, cracked feet, cracked
hands come forth
to imply nothing’s fixed.
I like balconies, I like clocks.
I like Nicaragua
and the songs
of my boyhood.
I remember mostly black & white.
ID documents from a log,
snapshots, mugshots against the wall
the partial arc of an official stamp
still visible, but zoom closer
and the low resolution distorts,
every dot an organic
stroke of grace so light & dark
strong enough to bruise the sky
…Araceli De Paz…Carlos Armando Guillen…Giovani Dubon…Andres Duke Castro…
Demetria Rosales…Rosa Henrique Otero…Isabel Rodriguez…Baltazar Antolin Flores
…Sandra Yanira Hernandez…Luis Mejia Sorano…Elsy Victoria Martinez…Orlando
Quiñonez…Dora Calero…Arsenio Gomez Cardenal…Maria Guadalupe Morales…
Ruben Gutierrez…Reina Maribel Ponce…Jose Manuel Garcia…Idalia Lopez Salazar…
Honorilo Lobo…Elena Juachin…Nicolas Escobar…Silvia Beatriz Hernandez Artiga…
Note: “Variations on Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic” takes names at random from Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad, San Salvador, El Salvador.
When I Think of Aleppo
for Zevart Bedikian (1937–2020)
I too lived a war, but I don’t think
I necessarily have to like the alternative
for permanent residence. There are ways
to be cursed when a brother ends up
in a rival gang, and you must throw down
because the feud is on, the way of
Polynices and Eteocles. It’s complicated
the way I associate my mother-in-law
with Aleppo, or the photo of two
Syrian boys sitting in rubble, one
torn sweater-arm over the other’s
shoulder, two years older than my sons
asleep in the darkness of another siren.
I think more and more in parallels now
because there’s a feeling in me
that outlives my way of thinking.
How do I articulate to the boys,
stop shoveling, it’s time to go.
Time to drop the front loaders,
Stop shouting at each other. I think
of the Syrian boys as if my thinking
can restore their bodies. What it is
is the insignificant feeling of a span
much too short. And what would I do
if it comes taking everything sweet as dirt.
To feel all night birds take
over the sky, to murder the smudge
of the stars. Not now, not ever,
not for another barrel bomb will I
contribute to your faceless justice. This
is what makes my body hum at night.
To elevate that which is broken,
bone & tendon, assembling the body
out of fragments. This is to say
I got my boys going down the slide,
the way they pick their small bodies
off the grass is an accomplishment.
I can’t tell you how many times
I have lied for the sake of making
logic work, believing that I’m all right,
that I can stomach another grave.
It’s so simple, so obvious, but I go on
blind to the war, like that fool Oedipus
who concludes that All is well.