What with light we might imagine

Before dawn, you greet hotel maids
chatting music, step around dog shit
on the clean cobbled walk past garbage
trucks and taxis in the cold. After
a long night of righteous missiles
over the holy land, the last echo of ¡puta
madre!
has dissolved down the block
and the fairy glow of streetlights guides
you toward a paling sky, Cinco de Mayo
and coffee.

Still squinting from the Santa Martha
bus, you walk into the shade past armed
guards on broken chairs and the same
one who blocked your way to leave that first
afternoon, said it’s too late, you’ll have to stay
the night inside. Remember the dark
in your throat, the sudden glint in his eye,
a prison joke. Ha-ha.

Hunched over pencils, beige-clad men
turn their attentive faces you won’t have
enough time to get to know. Your afternoons
fill with the broad light on a hundred Rivera
murals, the glow of surrealist women
at Chapultepec, the dapple through trees
in the Condesa, watching Obama win
on plasma TV, three-course lunches at clean
shadowed counters just one sane step
out of the glare. You blow your mind wondering
how many minds the Cathedral’s enormity
has blown before yours, and did all those people
also walk out the back door, cross the street
and buy their first suit for their living mother’s
funeral? Your wife suggests you bought it
for your own. You climb curving hotel
steps past a wide glass floor lit
from below and posted with potted plants
squeeze in the dim elevator with Italians
close your eyes and savor the top of a pretty
woman’s dark head. All that so you know
you’ll never remember their names: Oscar,
Luís, Perpetuidad and three dozen more.
While walking long prison hallways past men
selling food, smoking, playing handball
against concrete walls, standing, laughing
or squatting with hands covering their faces
you know you’ve only dipped your toes
and stared over yet another endless sea.

But what more can you do? Raised
a thousand miles from the ocean, at twenty
you wrote your first poem stunned by sparkle
and how the same water touching your feet
touched every shore on earth, the prows
of Greek and Viking ships, and all the feet
of all the people who stood and stared
since the beginning of time. Wow, you
thought. Wow.

Your still saying it. Remember the cab
in the rain, the drops on the glass bend light
and time, one block after another, this strange
unending city fills the creeks and bathes the plains
of your dry old mind. Wet pavement wafts
through the cracks and your mouth waters
at the thought of your wife happy after a week
at the monastery. You remember the Bar Odessa
and your younger self at the Café La Blanca
touched by the beauty and her note
you began another story—maybe the first
decent story you ever wrote and pure
imitation. You lean your head on cool glass
watch couples stroll the Alameda dangling
cigarettes and jewelry, sex and spring—well
you’re making that up, but why not—
which leads you to think of pyramids
built without wheels or beasts, the city floating
on a lake—how many stones carried from where
to fill it?—and that’s only what happens
in the cab to the hotel.

What with light might we imagine? When
a storm blows in at night and clouds explode
the sky, this monster city turns ancient village
and shudders until morning. A little girl stomps
through alley puddles chasing pigeons. She
doesn’t tire; she never will. A square-headed
boy joins her more interested in feeding
than stomping. Each day new shadows slant
across this stone into night, then it’s dawn
again for a thousand years. Is there more miracle
than children growing into men and women?
Don’t forget the righteous rage and white light
of bombs every night somewhere in the world
even as, especially as you watch morning
find its way past the brick dome over your bed
to bathe her skin in yellow. And in the newest
darkness, as far as you know the last you’ll ever
see, names gone, remember the lay of light
through bars onto baskets of purple garlic.