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Mexico: Explosions At 4:00 Am

ISSUE:  Autumn 1983

Into our alien sleep drop these slow
explosions: black black,
They executed Maximilian not far from here;
are they lining up the foreigners again

to shoot them one by one? Or is some crazed
soldier lobbing grenades over the rim
of the mountain? Maybe it’s a celebration,
caps of dynamite struck with a sledge

to mark a saint’s day. Esperanza will know—
or perhaps not. In this country, things well up
from underneath: oil, lava, fury, and desire
pressed from the fat leaves of ferns.


I hesitate at the corners of walled streets
and at the place where the road empties
into the bare need of the mountains; I fear

for my daughter absent somewhere in the night.
And now these intimations, as when someone
knocks and knocks at the door, knocks and knocks,
and I delay, hoping the sound will stop.


Sculptors speak of negative space,
the substantial emptiness
that balances what is. Here,

in a strange bed, in the dark,
we lift our hands to feel the loops
between our fingers. Wherever

our bodies leave a cavity
the emptiness sits down and waits.
Explosions: are they the other

heartbeats, the pulse of absence
proving that its blood, too, can burst?


With a deft
blow, the knife
cracks the shell
of our sleep.
The white runs
and we are exposed,
a double yolk,
two embryos unready.


We came here thirty years ago, before
we knew each other. Things were more explicit
then. Bells counted the daylight hours,

and we ourselves were an equation stretching
clear across the page. Now factored down,
we lie in a small bed, saying little.

Numbers, as they move toward zero, catch glimpses
of their ghostly counterparts rising
on the other side. I don’t mean death. I mean

a sort of symmetry where slouching darkness
follows like a mime, mocking the solid shapes.


The wheels of the DC9
clanked into the fuselage
like boxcars coupling
 black black
but in the radar-mothered
air above Chicago, we
didn’t recognize the sound.


Why do we choose
this place, where

the water’s suspect
and the people

where giving up

our words, we
give up subtlety

and ease
and wit? I guess

we come to memorize
our bodies, singly

and together.
The trace of fear

marks out
our arteries.


Remember in psychology the white goblet
against the black ground?
All at once the goblet disappears

and two black faces stare nose to nose
across the gap.
Let’s say we are the goblet opening

upward in a perfect bowl. We listen
for the explosion:
 black the picture shifts. We strain

to bring the goblet back and hold it, to toast us,
joined and central,
but the faces come again, legitimate

as we are, changing places with us,
dark for light
along the edges of our body.


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