C.K. Stead, 2007

Tropical fruit and thunder in the mountains;
the flash of water on crazily sloping streets,
precipitation on precipitation; the yellow cabs
and battered buses racing; the tiles I walk on,
the music (samba? salsa?) my ears are hearing
over the fan’s buzz; the shout of papaya sellers;
the bank guard with his automatic rifle
and his friend with the silver revolver;
the sign outside the trauma hospital meaning
“We never close”; and in a quarter seeming
without hope, “La Esperanza – Centro Dental” …
Everywhere, derelict lives and smiling faces.

They are dining on balconies; in boulevards
their cars are killing one another; somewhere
they will be dancing in the streets – because love
is a lunatic city and a river runs through it
whose gold enticed them to this Nowhere-nonplace
where mule-tracks crossed in the mountains.
The gold is gone. Over a patch of park
where drunks and addicts die, the condors hover.
I climb the stairs to my room -– for exercise,
or is it penance? The women are beautiful,
a beauty that lasts only as the gold lasted
and then is gone, replaced by a kind of grace.


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