By David Holper*
The baby’s copper-colored face is invisible now,
if ever it was visible at all.
It is invisible not only because
the American news only wants to speak of the flooding
in Texas but also because
the white newscasters exude a practiced disinterest in the dead
from Ciudad Acuna,
just across the Rio Grande.
Never, too, must he say
the words global warming. This is how
such forgetting begins.
But if in spite of such silence you were paying attention,
perhaps you might have noticed
how the world of miracles kisses up against
the ruination of the world:
You might ask Jose Francisco Contreras and his wife Aracelli
to explain such a truth.
On the morning the tornado opens its ravenous maw,
they drive to the bus stop
where he snags the bus to work.
As they ordinary along,
the wind barrages the town
and torrential rain erupts.
Terrified, they try to flee,
but a tornado hoists their car, flings it 200 meters
through the air as if it were a toy.
Like Dorothy’s house, the car corkscrews four times,
skipping through the sky,
while bricks and concrete blocks pummel the car’s
thin metal skin. When the whirlwind has devoured the city,
it drops their car
in a grassy plaza,
where Jose and his wife Aracelli kick their way free
from the ruin and stand,
amazed that they are whole.
But a tornado speaks in many tongues,
a syntax that cannot always be translated
in the looming roar—or the silences that shadow us.
As Jose and Aracelli are careering
through the air, a mother
and her baby are simultaneously sucked out of a car
they are everydaying in. As they leap into the air,
the baby rockets out of her arms.
The whirlwind compensates
by puncturing her lung
and leftovering her in the hospital.
Needless to say, no one will ask her
if she is grateful to be alive.
Such miracles are
better left unsaid.
Once the veil of the invisible is sundered,
we can begin
to understand such mysteries
—by forgetting what cannot be understood.
Instead, we bury the dead,
we rebuild our houses and businesses directly
in the pathway where the tornado has feasted
and will feast again. e track the newscaster’s silences.
We do not imagine
such wonders are only
one set of stories
—and newer miracles await ,
cooked up beyond
of our imaginings.
Caña de Azúcar
There are some sweetnesses too sweet to bear:
the press of an aunt’s bosom against your face,
a wave of some beauty’s perfume on the autobus,
the press of fresh caña de azúcar.
In the mercado, you may see this simple act performed,
for it is as common as a first kiss.
All you need do is ask, and the man
who sits before you with his dark machete
will press the silvered edge of the blade to open the white flesh,
press it in his shiny pot, into which
the clear, sweetened drops will pour.
While you wait, you may glance about, imagining
the tartness of the lemon, the wet joy of watermelon,
the pleasures of the mango, pineapple, or papaya. But, no, none of these
are for you. I do not tell you this out of love, mind you.
It is only the eye speaking, a language
that may fool the heart, but have no fluency in its mother tongue. For the language required must water the roots of all
that cannot be seen. Finally, when the man smiles and hands you the cup,
I ask that you not be afraid to tip the sweetness beyond your lips.
For none savor love without this essential danger:
Now drink and let the sweetness sing its sad tune.
In a moment there will be time to consider what follows:
another swallow perhaps–until the heart cries out, enough enough!
* David Holper has done a little bit of everything: taxi driver, fisherman, dishwasher, bus driver, soldier, house painter, bike mechanic, bike courier, and teacher. He has published a number of stories and poems, including one collection of poetry, 64 Questions. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, and he has recently won several poetry competitions, in spite of his contention that he never wins anything. He teaches English at College of the Redwoods and lives in Eureka, California, far enough the madness of civilization that he can still see the stars at night and hear the Canada geese calling.