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ISSUE:  Winter 1945

The clock in the Cathedral sounds a single solemn chime: it is the first hour of the afternoon: under a silent sky tall bearded palms are motionless in their own shadows in
the blazing square and the jewel-eyed lizard with smouldering fire of old evil in his stare
regards the somnolence about him, measures the silent flow of time
with topaz flicker of dispassionate unwavering eye.
It is the siesta hour of oppressive brooding day:
The sentry spits reflectively and traces with his boot in dust
ambiguous and casual design, and with his mind
unfolds the quicker flowering pattern of Latin-Indian lust;
flicks with a coffee-colored hand a fly away
and gazes heavy-lidded on mid-distance, idolesque and blind.
Against a sky the color of sulphur fire a vulture planes in white refracted glare of light on Cordilleran snow; red-purple blood of bougainvillaea blossoms spills and stains the moss-cracked ancient lemon plaster walls, and here the Shadow creeps, implacable and slow: another fragment of dry-rotted plaster quietly falls.
The withheld thunder of the day distils a torpid heat, behind the sleep of latticed shutters crime blooms in dreams, but nothing happens: the hour ends, the dream is incomplete;
for sharp as a pistol shot the lime-green macaw screams hysterical idiot-parrot laugh, and in the cantina down the street
the nickelodeon plays the rhumba it played yesterday and day before,
reiterated, meaningless as waves on some forgotten shore.

And fifteen ladies in the cubicles that front the Calle San Jose
arise to coffee and cigarettes, apply mascara for another day, and in each evaluating sultry glance at passers-by there is the cruel unsmiling wisdom of the lizard’s eye.


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