Old Gringo

Someday I want to be an old gringo who didn’t die young
crawling the tracks counting ties with his nose outside San Miguel, falling
off a pickup barreling into Vera Cruz, shot against the sea wall
in Mazatlan, staked to the ground in the Sierra Madre or pummeled
to death outside a Cuernavaca bar on the night of the Day of the Dead.

Someday all by myself on a bench in the high shade eating
cheese croissants from Starbucks, I’ll remember the heavy-haloed
heat in a tent on a crowded beach with a hundred-peso whore, tender
as a fawn, the pretty mouths of women I never knew
whispering past mariachis loud as trucks. I’ll remember

standing tiptoe ready to die with the one I loved,
surf to our chins, lifting and falling under screaming stars,
the salt on our lips melting icecaps–
how we wanted to change the world, how we did,
or thought we did, and that was enough.

Someday I’ll be an old gringo on a bench wearing the suit
I bought for my mother’s funeral six months before she died
listening to the song of an invisible man piling up the high stone walls
bigger than any mortal voice could possibly be. They say
to know the gods, you have to die, but have they ever watched

the girls pass by? Ever seen in their faces the others, long gone—
their eyes blinking around corners, peeking past lampposts,
staring out windows–or felt in the sway of their hips
every child that’ll ever be born already inside them?
The plaza gets crowded fast. Look how the roof

breaks open to dust and starlight, feel the ache of doves
and the lean of the earth toward dawn. Watch morning
slant onto the sidewalk where women gather–
are there any dreams as vivid as the color of their skirts?
as the sun through shards on the old white wall, red

bougainvillea through broken glass and green
hummingbirds tasting the flowers? The sun, the sun again!
The rain, the rain again! Her face, her face again! A word,
the same word again! Don’t ask what’s become of the young
in their graves. The answer’s in the old songs they never knew.

The answer’s in the cluster of men in the shade whose language
turns stone to blood, damp as dew. It’s in the hole where we fell
in the dark and saw light. Once on an empty bay
I spent a long night waiting for a woman who never came. The waves
held the moon, the sand a dead shark the size of my arm.

I lay down on her mattress that smelled of saddles
and felt the sea rise through the glassless window of her shack.
I don’t remember waking, I don’t believe I ever have.