Fernando Esteban Flores

THE BODY

 

1

You kept your place at a discreet distance
for you were made to stand & serve

like a Levite I passed you by at times
unconcerned with health or disposition

In your distress I turned my face
walked the other way

but after sweet & bitter years I find myself
a kind Samaritan


compañero

Fellow traveler
bound to my side

through the war I waged with the world
dragging you like a prisoner

never questioning motives
arbitrating decisions

playing the Devil’s advocate
(as though it would have helped)

—Michelangelo’s Pietà—
            one massive block of pain & joy

sculpted from a muddled mass
of ligaments & bone

an earthly living stone
& almost a prayer escapes

these infidel lips which have believed
too much in the power of words

Their forces to leash or unleash
as we were thrust into this world            

At Mercy Hospital delivered to
León & Nieves where he would

soon after die in the grip of unmerciful
hands & a new chapter would begin

at Grandmother’s small white washed
house with its blooming plot of earth

as near to Paraíso as we would get
Pomegranates round with succulent promise

ready to be crushed between our teeth
The scent of lemons oranges

drifting through the evening like
gentle blossoms of her thorny life

Mesquites offering a measure of rest
Between idyllic play

The air primal spiked by yerbabuena
& cilantro

Roses splashing their palette of paradise
& for awhile

childhood stood preserved—
Its allotted time allowed to grow

against the shocks & jolts
of impending change

Co-conspirator through the clumsy contradictions
of adolescence we plotted our way

determined to have our say
We roamed the streets like Aztec kings

wild proud & free
to take our share of pleasure

orchestrate the plunder of youth—
We strode strong into manhood

No monkhood
No life sublime for us

We were the world
& the world our field of vision

We rushed the Bastille of youth
with one intent

suited to each other
like knights to armor

committed to a
a self made cause

for men live their lives
as if they owned them
 

2

In the mirror I see how I might resemble
the other still her face emerges through a wilderness of aches

It takes some getting used to living between faces
—perhaps thrown together randomly

mismatched—an afterthought
Two portraits set

like contradicting texts
provoking faith in self

the most encouraging belief
y mis pies— my feet—

My two solitary conductors
over this fiery planet’s plane

We plunged straight
into the ruin

You plodded right along more faithful than a shadow
through youth’s pleasurable pursuits

where you felt misused
estranged from everything

Ordered to attend outrageous escapades
in unfamiliar rooms at unkind hours

We stood together toe to toe
& took the count

There was no turning back
We stomped into the struggle

mile for mile
Herculean pillars

pitted against the plots to take us out
We stepped into the fabulous fray

firmly footed—Ajax & Achilles
Who’d contest such hubris

Shipwrecked such a long way from home
to topple our Trojan myth

We rode the common rush for survival
the loneliness of distance

the emptiness of longing
the restlessness of always moving farther

into exodus—emigrants
Illusive Ithacas never leading home
 

3

Dos manos—two hands
Two warring angels

Remnant wings of right & wrong
light & dark

You maneuvered me in directions
sometimes rigged at odds

& I was bound to live
a contradictory life

Together we did and undid
bound & loosed

accepted & rejected
blessed & cursed

la espada llameante
flaming sword at Eden’s gates

barring all admittance
stretching forth

Adam’s right hand
to take dominion over what

the eye encompassed
& the books were opened

to reveal the need for hands
to inscribe what the heart

had counted worthy of remembrance
& the names of our dead were

scripted in the pages of
Order Duty & Affliction

& what the hands affirmed
the heart acknowledged

& though the wanderer travels far
from where he started

he is never lost
& it will be the hands

that lay us down at last
in rest or unrest

After the toils of the tales
they will take up the final task
 

4

 &
behind the rib cage

pumps no human heart
but an angry fist—

clenched unclenched
extending towards divinity

wanting to connect
the disconnectedness

The exile reaching out for home
to fuse the broken ends

The severed continuity
imagining wholeness

 at the point of touch
ever-moving towards

that heart
so beautifully defective

as to deceive itself
For we have seen the

 worst the best
played out across the

screens of history
toppled tyrants

 dethroned kings
dismantled dictators

Cadaverous nations pared to the bone
by the reek of tyranny

 the mockery of ignorance
the poison of apathy

Hands thrown up in discontent
at the continual deceit

 A heart already heavy
with excesses & excuses

Tú—mi corazón my heart
thwarted by the maps

of time and age
uprooted like tumbleweed

sowing its seeds as it rolls
Testament to the power

of survival engineering
its own destiny over

the hardest places possible
barbed by wire & fence

bordered by bullets
& bayonets

Tú—O mi corazón

made off like the poet-
vagabond Villon

My life thrashing
wildly in your arms

& never once looked back


AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'd like to offer up these few lines of a much longer poem called "Song for America" as my statement:

I wandered homeless America’s wilderness
 I was no craftsman no tradesman no builder of any kind
 A raconteur a painter of words a chronicler of times
 For poets are the loveliest of liars who burn to paint a better world…

from Song for America (Part 1)


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