To the Poets of Central America
Poem by Robert Elzy Cogswell  •  Art by Patricia Wallace Jones
 


Go into the dark closet and take
from the shelf in the back
a naked man waiting in the shadow of a bush.
Birdcalls flow over him
like a brightly-colored blanket.
His soul rises green, lifted
from his brown body by the rain.

In one corner you will find a great building
made of stone, walls a meter thick
and pock-marked with
the ineffectual pecking of bullets
fired from the floor below the shelves.

Don’t forget the bougainvillea.
Her eyes shine darker
with one transcendent flower in her hair.
Make it blood red.

Empty it all into a ceramic basin,
and stir with all the strength you’ve got:
your life depends on it.
You are the cocinero.
You are the mago.
You are the candle in the paper lantern.

Flatten it all, thin and round.
Brown it lightly. It must fit one page.
Roll it into a tube ¡y enciéndala!
It must burn brightly to start the kindling
in a cold hearth.

Will they die before you finish?
They are dead already.
Their tiny stiff corpses lie cold and ready
on the dark shelf in the closet.


Previously published in di-verse-city, the Annual Anthology of the Austin International Poets Festival, 2006.

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