|LOS PALITOS DE TENDEDERAS/CLOTHESPINS
In Sunday school we used
them to make a crucifix.
One clothespin at a time. We got them from the nun
who ran the school, in a shoe box marked with a cross,
the smell of codfish
oil in the box, the metal springs
strewn like silver minnows between the cardboard
and the wooden pieces. We used glue, beads, buttons,
mine had Christ made
up with toothpicks and matches,
a red button for the head. The nun, Sister Nola, liked
mine she said, very much, and she took me up to show
her mother, who lived
upstairs, and as we walked up
the dark and winding creaking stairs, a ring on her hand
made a tapping sound each time she held the banister
on our way up. I thought
of my classmates still making
their crosses out of the clothespins, gluing, placing
their own ornaments on their crucifixes. Sister Nola
opened and door to a
room, guided me inside, sat me
down and she walked away into another room. I sat
and stared at the dusty, worn furniture. Everywhere
the musty brown of old
age, sadness. I heard her speak
to another person, and I thought of her mother, bed-
ridden, a sack of bones on a bed. I heard laughter, or
was it coughing? The
clearing of phlegm in a throat.
When Sister Nola returned, she was naked. She stood
in front of me. I saw her pale skin, the rivers of blue
veins on her waxen breasts,
the dark nipples. Suddenly,
I could have fainted, but I sat there and looked at her
long enough to see a red halo form around her head,
I thought of the button
I had used for Christ's head
on my crucifix. She held it in one hand, burning there,
a glow so bright I thought the sun had swallowed us both.
Long after Christopher
Columbus returned to Spain,
at first triumphant, then a big-time loser, the colony
suffered great losses.
The story goes that Hatuey,
Chief of the Siboneyes, after much insurrection,
captured and tied to
the stake, asked if given the choice
between heaven or hell, whether he'd accept the white
man's heaven, and that
he asked if the Spanish
would be there too, in this heaven, and the friar said
yes, that they would.
Hatuey looked out beyond
where the waves crashed against rocks, peered at stars
one final time, memories
of verdant palm trees,
the flight of the parrots, fish roasting, cassava . . .
He said that he'd much
rather burn in hell, and so burn
he did. Now in Florida we have Hatuey beer. College
students drink it by
the case, get drunk and careless.
Some drive off highways in their pickup trucks, others
jump off staircases,
or shoot themselves with shotguns.
Nobody wants to blame anyone of anything. How
when you look into Florida
waters long enough you get
dizzy, some deep gut sensation telling you you've been
there dead before, born
again into the heat of this oblivion.
VANISHING POINTS ON THE ANXIOUS NIGHT
Last night my wife and
I couldn't sleep. I fell asleep
early, but then woke up when I felt her get up
and go downstairs. I looked at darkness, breathing,
hearing the iron gallop of a heart against my pillow.
She opened the kitchen
door, walked out into the patio,
sat on the porch swing I broke days earlier, my weight--
the fact my weight took its toll on the chain and hook--
She sat alone there in the bright yellow of bug lights,
picked at her fingernails,
lit a cigarette. I could see
all this from the space between us. I thought of our
children, our girls, asleep in their own room, the dog
curled with Alex. I thought of the blueness of distance,
how many times I've
stood on boats in Florida waters,
looked south toward that island of my youth, a blur
now, how eyes water by staring into the horizon, opal,
mother-of-pearl haze, enough to get you dizzy.
An owl cried in the
night. It caught an animal, a rabbit?
Plucked a squirrel out of its nest, and the screeching
kept me up. This mauling. What gets ground up
in time, some call melancholia. I call it remembrance.
Virgil Suarez is
a professor of creative writing at Florida State University, and
lives in Tallahassee. He recently received a grant from the National
Endowment for the Arts in poetry, and a fellowship from the Florida
State Arts Council. His poems have recently appeared in such journals
as Blue Mesa Review, The Chariton Review, Sow's Ear Review, Cimarron,
Crazy Horse, and Puerto del Sol, as well as many other journals,
both in the United States and internationally.