A Poem You Haven't Read Yet
My Fishtap colleague, the poet Frank X. Walker, edited a fine anthology a few years back called AMERICA! WHAT'S MY NAME? Now that I'm secretly cobbling my newxt poetry books together while working on Hummingbird II, I found this one. And I really liked it. I thought you might like it too. All right, I admit it--I am writing this blog to escape working on Hummingbird II. Yes, it's just like doing social studies homework.

This poem is dreamilke and mysterious, and was inspired by letter writers I saw in the old Mexican villages where nobody knew how to write. I don't know what the coins are at the end. Grace? The money they paid for the letter to be written? Or their reward? I like it that the poem did not tell me, and that I did not tell the poem.


There is A Town in Mexico

There is a town in Mexico
where no one ever dies, and the few
who have died did it elsewhere, then
pass through the town square
on their way to the fruit market where
hibiscus flowers bleed red nectar
into tea, mangos are free,
where alamos and olmos trees
are whitewashed halfway up
the trunk, and those few dead
our world has coughed up stop
by a bench where my grandfather
sits at a wrought iron table and
a black Olivetti and a stack
of onionskin bond. "Name,"
he says as he rolls the sheet
into the hungry machine.
And those few dead who wander
in past sugar cane, agaves
spiked dusty jade, snapping turtles
in the spring, the burro's fence,
scratch their heads, unable
to remember their names. "Any
name will do," my grandfather
tells them: for instance, he
calls himself Hummingbird.
He calls John the Baptist
Juanito, and if Emiliano
Zapata ever came down from the hills,
He'd get a new name too. The dead
call themselves Honeysuckle, Xochitl,
Midnight Wind, Coyote.
My grandfather types. Once
they've signed the page,
they scoop a cool cupful of water
from the tiled foutain, shade
their eyes for a minute, and stare
at all those gold shining coins.

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