Cotopaxilisten to this poem
-After Frederic Edwin Church
I ask the campesino where he got his hat.
I have trouble understanding his response
as he rushes past pauses and breathes between
his words, chest heaving, his accent slanted north.
I do understand that he is confused,
is trying to find his way back to Sonora.
He doesn’t remember when he and his
burros arrived, how they came.
Senor, mire las palmas, look at the waterfall,
the way the jungle butts against the peaks
the way the leaves are withering,
birds shivering, trying to catch their breath.
And the volcÃ¡n is bubbling, ready to chase
us out of the frame. He has put us here
to see how we die. We are lucky
he didn’t paint a tiger or a grizzly.
And that woman behind us? She could be
a filibuster, waiting in ambush, shackles and rifle.
We’d know where we were then.
Cotopaxi 1855listen to this poem
-After Frederic Edwin Church
A Mexican and a volcano walk into a bar.
Or, maybe it was a gringo. Maybe
it was a train of donkeys
and a waterfall.
Maybe it was some palm trees
in the mountains, along
with an entire jungle,
swallowing the tall grass
before dying off.
kiss me, I’m German.
Or was it Scottish?
A gringo and a palm tree walk into a valley.
They each order a city,
but the bartender is all out
of Latacunga, so the gringo says
he’ll take Puebla.
Bartender says kiss me,
or at least ask for something
we have in the back.
Ecuador and Von Humboldt
walk into Nashville,
ask Andrew Jackson for a beer.
He dons his Mason robes
and they all show their rings,
perform some Masonic signals.
They spill some oil,
accidently make love.
Jackson wakes up
with a chip on his shoulder.
Simon Bolivar and William Walker
walk into a continent,
ask if the fights are on.
Oh, and it’s Friday night.
The bartender doesn’t want
to change from the World Cup,
says to go back where they came from.
They flee to Saint Helena
to plan their comeback.
Il Duce Listening to the BeeGeeslisten to this poem
-After Irenee Shaw’s Portrait of Eric Williams
He’s got that Mussolini smirk:
sunglasses that sway cool,
that earpiece whispering every threat,
one hand in his coat pocket,
other on the banister
that is the butt of a rifle,
a strut like a Greenwich Village sidewalk,
like it’s not even hot out,
calm like he has to be calm,
like if the crowd saw him
fidget or hesitate even a little,
that body guard would be
pushing his boss on the floor
to take the bullets.
The crowd is hard to read.
Blank faces behind a police line.
I think I see myself back there,
under the flag, bored.
It looks like I’m unimpressed,
as usual, happy to judge,
contemplating being that hand,
inside a light circle
on a darkened photo,
the cadaver dragged through Bogota.
My motive would die with me,
but it would be suggested
I was a collaborator.
I’d be the traitor who died
by the righteous hand of the people’s
mob, one of those moments where
it seems ok to give in
to that seethe and gnash.