Esteban (3) (cont’d)
He remembers Cabeza de Vaca’s sermon
on Ash Wednesday, the date
revealed in a dream–or so he claimed.
The Ever-Present, Dios, speaks
through fire. This day recalls
a time his Word walked
like a man, even went
through the motions, the agonies
of death, solely to heal us.
To keep us from burning
in the lights of primordial Wisdom,
stronger than a thousand suns.
Had the four of them not been traveling
from the east, he often wonders,
would they have been so welcomed?
And could the lack of such orientation
explain in part why his present
journey pales? For now, too often
his medicine stays in the gourd–
or bottled up in some high canyon–
& in dreams he chases trails of smoke,
teasing clouds whose rain
never reaches the ground.
Three years in that squalid
ruin of a capital have made me soft,
that’s all. Most days his guides
leave him in the dust, & lately
even the women seem impatient.
Take this one:
at first she didn’t want to,
then when she consented, pinched
her lips tight against all kisses,
rode him so grimly he was afraid
his heart wouldn’t keep up
with his over-taxed lungs–
would liquefy, or fly to pieces
from a misplaced blow.
the smithies he hung around as a boy
in the Black Quarter of Azemmour,
learning to operate the goatskin
bellows with his feet, pumping
the master’s signature rhythms–
in counterpoint, sometimes, to the wives’
steady rain of pestles
in the yard–& all the ghetto’s
apprentices joining in, the smiths
grinning as they toyed
with the soft white metal.