It is winter/ and we speak/ with passionate hands

—always, about the past. Always,
about histories which follow us
like wraiths out of the mist;
neediest, like ghosts and old
lovers, when the cold sets in
and strips the landscape
to the bone.

When you look at statues
in the shade, obelisks or plaques
overlaid with fleur-de-lis; or a marker
saying on such and such a date
arrived so many men— strange, wild,
picturesque
— you see with your winter eye
their color like that bronze into which
a small proportion of gold is worked

by the molder

how they tested the winds
pulling through the galleon’s rigging
by holding up their fingers before they
jumped ashore, shedding chains as they went.
Lacrustine, wrote Lafcadio Hearn of their village
on stilts in 1883, listing in the current:
a secret guarded by reeds and waste—

vicious crabs, alligators
slinking through mud, their jaws
unhinged. Chickens with one leg,
limping along.  Not even the post
ventured here, where clouds
of mosquitoes reigned and made
a sound like the boiling of
innumerable caldrons. 

Rumors persist about the deep
green of their eyes, the way
they danced with the shrimp,
their bodies supple as fresh-water
eels. 
I didn’t come by boat or ship,
and the only card game I know
is matching pairs—

but when I read that on stormy
evenings the card-dealer called out
22 as Dos paticos en laguna, I can see
the poetry in his eye: the way I learned
to describe the world. That’s
how 
all migrants and seafarers

must think: not knowing
the words in a foreign tongue—
for gale, for ice, for snow— they’ll look
for ideograms in the bodies of
whelk and birds and fish; they’ll talk
with their eyes, with their hands.

  

 

In response to Via Negativa: Blizzard.

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