How many doorways
have I looked into
with no one waiting
for me to pass
the time of day . . . discuss rain that hasn’t fallen
on roses, sea-dull acacias,
the sun-scraped lawns?
Dirt scurries this way
then that in the street—
and in the study,
my school photo has a grey cobweb
in the background,
and that has nothing
to do with the soul . . .
the sky looks tired
Yet, any bird can read the map of the air—
but that gets me exactly where?
The only reply to my letters
expressing interest in the position
is dust rising from my cuffs
to settle each evening in the west—
street sweeper, sidewalk inspector,
bookkeeper of fallen leaves—
the road ends in the sea.
Still, someone needs to make sense
and if not,
herd sheep, take in a stray cat.
Throw your hands up
in the face of the past
and little more than
a fine powder rises
on the path
leading to a bench outside that bar
where no one
notices the hopeless rucksack
slung over your shoulder,
the one you set off with
half a life ago, thinking
there might be something left
in the grab bag of the blue.
is a glass of rough red wine served up
by the seawall,
salt air, some fog hanging offshore.
the usual uncertainty
grey as the sinking pearl of the sun . . .
and realize you’re lucky
to be here with the empty light
like the promise of a life
a life just drifting off. . . .
I’ve been considering
the untold stars
whose dust will never
spell out our names.
We have our bodies
from stars, second-hand . . .
the soul according
to most accounts,
beggars pulling a cart. . . .
I’ve counted out
a dozen encrypted clouds,
alternatives that have,
so far, added up
to little more than
the last one or two
sinking into the sea
before the stars
come out again
and my thoughts
freeze along with
the lemon blossoms.
Each dawn I examine
the backdrop of the sky . . .
confirming the earth
is just a rock,
where we came from—
some billions of molecules
rewired. Against the odds
I’ve made it this far
with sand in my shoes,
silt in my veins. . .
banking on the invisible
ledger of air.
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains, /dungeon, or beggery, or decrepit age!
Luis Omar Salinas 1937-2008
All the guardian angels
took the Greyhound to Mazatlan,
except that old one
sleeping in his pick-up
in back of the Rexall drug
Jorge Negrete with No Te Rajes
on the radio
circulating forever in my Aztec blood.
I could not escape
of my shoes
and made up songs to every Mary
and Martha, to the sorrowful mysteries
of their necks.
A romantic at midnight,
I climbed bougainvillea to balconies,
a pack of KOOLS, beer in a sack,
the articles of faith
as I knew them then. . . .
I drove with one hand over an eye
of my double-vision youth, tipped my hat
and the ashes of moonlight
Beneath the flowering apricot
I praised the schism
my soul on all fours floating
like a sandwich wrapper
over to Roeding park where I spent my days learning
from the larks
all I could about hope.
Through the ‘80s I couldn’t tell
one neorealistic misery from the next—
Visconti’s from De Sica’s,
the emotional sprockets and chain links . . .
I knew an hour was missing
in the U.S. release of Bertolucci’s 1900,
and years before,
I’d hit the road, making soup with Tony Quinn in black & white
along the north-east coast of Italy.
I returned to the sea—my reservoir
unfurled a white sail before the existential waves
with nothing to lose, but my heart
capsized in moonlight.
Nevertheless, I was an original
in Byron’s sequined shirt,
tip-toeing for years on the precipice of the sky,
in the blue
undertow of afternoon . . . .
no melodies left
to extract from the waves, and the stars
always did their best
to keep me off course—
the horizon remains beyond eloquence.
If it takes a fool to be a poet,
I’ve deceived no one as I went
in search of roses, not philosophy,
which I had freely from sparrows
in the yard.
I left the sport coat of fame in the display window,
no inheritance but the gritos of the gulls.
Somewhere, there are
silver trumpets and mariachis singing
El Rancho Grande,
but I can’t hear them from here.
I bequeath my manuscripts,
illuminated or otherwise,
to the thrift shop of the wind,
and I will hitch-hike to the stars.
My parents took the package tour
and put in a word for me, but God, I think, is not
sentimental. You wouldn’t think so,
but I loved him well enough
in my own way—
what other choices were available
still standing in the street?
10th Year, Drought
Each day now, leaving for my walk,
I put on my straw hat
to hold in the hope I have left
as I walk past dehydrated trees
where I can’t help but think
of Goya’s El tres de mayo,
how, with their arms surrendered
to a black sky,
look just like the trees, slumped
hopelessly into each other,
waiting to be shot. . . .
There’s a bougainvillea on the cliff
making a heart-red run
through the prickly pear,
at the purple blossoms of Mexican sage—
that’s all it takes
to have me praising what’s left
before the heat arrives
to toss another worthless prayer past the islands,
the crags of Santa Cruz,
the far reaches of San Miguel,
as I look for any trace of cloud
slipping in from 40 years ago. . . .
But daydreaming is so much dust
in the rain barrel
at the corner of the house
where I watched B westerns,
filmed just 90 miles south,
that we tuned-in Saturday mornings
in black & white
while it rained, while clouds
of dust were rising
from the posse in pursuit. . . .
What chance now
going to open up
and return us to those days?
Above the bay
each evening, there’s just that cloud of dust,
burning down. . . .