September Morning, Mexico City


A dog the color of strong tea
joins me like an old friend,
then takes a corner.
Rainscrubbed leaves,
the lucid greens of succulents,
trees, vines, shrubs, specked
and caped with every color,
tangerine, raspberry, watermelon,
undersea dream sky,
wispy amethysts, my feet crush them,
fresh gashes prick my eyes. Stones—
cream, rose, ash, pitch—bask,
vibrant equanimity. Smoky doves
slope on high sprung branches.

Old church almost empty,
almost quiet.
A small deft man vacuums
the dusty echoes of hesitant
voices, meager room by room,
a few steps down the aisle
another room, dusky buildings
edged on the ample white nave.
His machine glisses from nothing,
incants a husky mezzo note,
slides, diminuendo, to silence
again and again, beating
the closed heaven
of high wide stones.

Before my eyes, that faltering
man, His dying gray skin, His
fresh-slashed gashes—
I do not understand.
My life hurts others. I dream,
I take their pain, I breathe it in,
I wake up, nothing changes.
I clasp hurt, draw it back,
my tensed hand takes—nothing.

The sun brushes over me,
incurious. Warmth crowns
my head. Leaves and blossoms,
seductive, languid, careless,
watch. I want to confess—
to whom, when, in what
words? I feel
the gaze of the mottled city.

Fred Maus