99 Lines

“…áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.” ~ “Pied Beauty,” Gerard Manley Hopkins

For doors unbarred and locks unlatched at first light
For gentle rumbling within rooms as bodies pulled out of the station of sleep
For the shuffling of slippered feet on creaking floors
For spurs and ambered feathers and clouds of yellow dust
risen with the repeated chorus of roosters
For beds of yerba buena, ginger flowers, and marigolds heavy with dew
For mist that would not lift till almost noon
For dark, pili-nut bodies of cockroaches
skittering under the sink with the yellow flood of kitchen light
For cold water heated in an aluminum pot on the electric stove
and the large green plastic pail into which it was poured in the bathroom stall
For the eggs brought to boil with the morning coffee
and the fist-sized rolls of bread warm
in a paper sack from the corner bakery
For the liquid green flick of lizards’ tails behind screens
and doors that closed too quickly on them
For the part that they gave up in order to save the whole
For the story of the neighbor’s child
For her little finger caught in the door’s rusty hinge
so she never again spoke from shock
For the boy whose mother went missing only to be found
in pieces, hacked and stuffed into a large packing box
For the cigarillo clenched in the laundrywoman’s teeth
and her skirts bunched damp between her haunches
For the ridged bar of Perla soap by her feet
as she beat clothes by the water pump
For the fumes of diesel and petrol in the streets
and the unpredictable times of water delivery service
For the holes that were dug in the back yard
in the shadow of sayote vines whose tendrils
were like miniature telephone coils
For the black pig in the pit and the noise that it made
and the bleating goats tethered to the guava tree
For the fortune seekers bent on the trail
of a golden Buddha hidden in the hills
For the wall where a boy was shot by Japanese soldiers
during the war and the trees into which he poured
the last two lines of a song
For the crack in the central aisle of the old cathedral
and statues of the crucified Christ brooding in the shadows
For trays of eggs delivered to the nuns in the convent
so they could pray on their knees for fair weather
For the former dictator’s destroyed bust
For its missing eyes, ears, its blasted nose
For the vegetation at its base— leaves of olive,
khaki, drab— the colors of military fatigue
For the soldier who raided the arsenal
before disappearing underground
For the generation of men and women who marched
with red flags across the bridge
For the colony of termites found in the ancestral house
and the flying ants that scaled the air with their wings
For fingers that curled into fists and fists
pushed deep into pockets in order to hide
the heart’s jagged audible trembling
For the hands that made and hurled the bombs
because bellies were hungry for bread
For the animal with matted fur we passed each day
at the neighbor’s gate, snarling and straining at the leash
For you who said Don’t let the dog smell your fear
For you who sported a well-pressed cotton shirt
a good wool coat a feather in your hatband
For the stoppered bottles of Old Spice
and English Leather lined up on the windowsill
For the inside of the closet door
covered with drawings in a childish hand
For the tins of Marca Oso wrapped in brown paper
brought home from the store
For the copies of Little Women and Alice in Wonderland
and the faint pencil marks on the inside cover saying 2.50
For the defense lawyer you ordered to stop
chewing gum while court was in session
For you who taught the difference between imagination
and an impoverished imagination
For you who would not trust anyone else to type up
a judicial decision
For you who at the dinner table tolerated fingers
mimicking the slide up and down a piano keyboard
in Fur Elise and Aragonaise
For the woman who squeezed milk from her breasts
into the child’s eye because she had conjunctivitis
For the storekeepers who knew you by name
For the barber shop in the center of town
and the restaurant selling noodles and egg pie
For the shoeshine boys in the plaza
smartly snapping their squares of chamois in the air
For the Chinese merchants bringing a gift of King Sue jamon
on Christmas day and the godchildren that came
with their carols and envelopes for cash
For the nap the blessed nap
half an hour every afternoon without fail
and an hour on weekends
For the walk early mornings around the lake
in the park and the trip to the beach on Black Saturday
For the night you cried I think you cried 
what was it for you cried sitting by yourself
on the porch in your kamiseta
For the dream that visits as if to say this time
is that time and some things do not change

~ in memoriam, Gabriel Zafra Aguilar (1913-1990)


In response to Via Negativa: The Legend of the Cosmic Hen.

2 Replies to “99 Lines”

  1. Luisa — “Papa” to you… and “Judge” to me… but I had the pleasure of knowing him as Papa, too… in our comings and goings on 6 City Camp Alley… and then that one day in his hospital bed at BGH, while on my Internal Medicine rotation, he smiled, a glint in his eyes… and all was quiet. Eternal repose be to you, Papa. — Ging

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