Alba Written at Bennington College
No caw of roosters to greet the pale snow here,
nothing stirs at this hour, not even the mice
buried deep in the snow. I stop to piss by a tree
but notice that a dog has beaten me to the spot,
a yellow smear near the tree's trunk. I hate how
snow crunches under my boots. My hands are crows
nested in my pockets. My breath ghosts every word
I want to utter in name of such loneliness, such magic,
but my mouth is merely a slit through which enough
air passes inside my lungs. On my way home
in this white world where everything seems to forget
the idea of green, my memory becomes a cardinal
shooting across the snow like a drop of blood.
I walk in the Bennington snow at midnight,
cross the bridge over the lake. In moonlight,
the upturned canoe burrows its hump shape
from the shadows. This is a bestial night,
a blue night of hatched truths. Dark surprise.
A harsh wind speaks her name to the trees.
Sifted, fresh snow falls upon the path. I don't
feel lost, but I see my breath in front of me,
mouthed words fall frozen at my feet, crunch
under my boots. Air singes my lungs with cold.
How far is home in all this blueness? I fall
three times, get up, dust my legs off . . .
There's the myth of crossing too many bridges.
Of not looking back once you cross. Chunks
of snow fall off the branches. Twigs break
underfoot. I hear my father calling. What
is he doing here so far from his island?
I trudge onward to escape all the selves
he wanted his only son to be.
Allegro con Salsa
These Bennington College trees line the path
through the lake to my white-clapboard house
in Orchard C, Godliness blue on the sifted, fresh
snow. This island boy can wither here, I think,
if not for the heat in my own blood, spooked
horses on my grandfather's farm, miles deep
in my memory. I cross the bridge, unsteady feet,
the snow crunches like bones under my boots.
The wind hits snow chunks off tree branches,
some nocturnal morse-code not intended for me,
but for some other creature. I start humming
an old song from childhood to steady my mind,
my tongue, my hands, my breath, frozen . . .
The moon peeks through clouds. I start to dance.
I conga through snow as if my life depended on it.
The Great Suspiro
In black cape, top hat, he choked
words into his throat, a web of deceit,
though a magician he wasn't.
Actually, my parents worked
with him during volunteer red
Sundays when they picked
potatoes from muddy fields,
and Suspiro looked up at the sky
and said he'd could read
the bottoms of clouds like hands,
and he knew that everyone's
days in Cuba were counted,
and he sighed. He sighed all
the time, which is how he got
his nickname. Suspiro. Sigh.
My father tagged "The Great"
because he said when Suspiro
spoke, people stopped work
to listen. Until the day, he fell
over furrowed earth, clutching
his breast, and out of his mouth
came a scream that set doves
aflutter in the distant cane fields.
Suspiro, of the bone-white
predictions. How my parents
would leave their country
never to come back. Me, I grow
silent when I feel his hands
wrap around my throat, a mouse
caught in a trap, its neck broken
a pulse quickening, then letting go.