Featured Poet

Virgil Suárez


( Tallahassee, Florida )

The Hand Healer

Teresa, la pasamano,

whom my mother took me

to whenever I ate too much candy

or nuts & I became empachado

Teresa in the light of the candles

during Havana city blackouts

soothed my aching belly

with silken hands as she gently

rubbed oil & anointed pomades

against my skin & made everything

right again where are you?

where are you now after so much

time & distance? Teresa

healer of my youth

Doña Inez Fantasizes About Being a Lotus Mistress
in a Japanese Samurai Film

The year of the locust plague, she rode away from her parents'
house by the river to the Hibiscus Palace, an old castle in the valley
of marigolds. There she tended a garden with a koi pond, slivers

of fish like ghostly remembrances of her childhood. She dreamt
of evanescent egrets knee-deep in marsh water, the reflection of hands
against the blossoms of sunlight, dulcimer sounds from the china berry

trees. Jasmin-scented silk around her neck, wrists anointed
with myrrh. Fog slid down the slopes of bamboo riddled mountains.
In the spring, the children flew kites in the crisp air, men readied

for battle in full warrior regalia. In her paper-paneled abode, shadows
move across with praying mantis slowness. On the branch outside
the window, a robin warbles twice, then stops to eat a worm.

At night the moon orbs her longing, star-flashed lips against hers—
crickets sing of rapture that comes twice in a woman's life. Pillow
soft embraces rock her to sleep as she ponders her opera life, a stage

upon which she hears footsteps, a door opening, her life there to greet her.

The Psalmist, After Johnny Cash's "Oh Bury Me Not"

What is found in a mote of dust afloat in a shaft
of light coming through an abandoned house's
broken window? A cracked dirty floor, a woman

with her back turned to the door, my grandmother
perhaps, working on the evening's meal, a toad
in the cool, damp spot by where my grandfather

wiped his mud-caked boots by the door, a machete
blade rusted like this thought of a dying man,
a pistol in his hands, the way my mother claims

my father's father went down, or Martí, Cuba's
martyred leader, a man with a weakness for pretty
women and poetry. In the church of bliss, the book

closes itself against the ravages of a crow trapped
in fire. Here is Jesus, man of earth and fire, water
for eyes. In his bosom aches a heart, in his guitar

the history of how a man travels, never coming back
to where he started. My father always claimed he wanted
to be buried back home. How we all return?

In black dust, a mote sifting free in the fading light.

After Lorca's "The Ballad of the Sleepwalker"

In this liquid world of the tropics, seen by your own
     eyes, verdigris is precisely the color.  Where water
ebbs and flows over river rock, worn smooth, flushed

     with a patina of lichen, mossy tufts kissed in cracks.
The palm trees are regal in their new dress of fronds.
     Okay, verde like its coconuts.  A snapping turtle

suns on a half submerged log, its head an arrow, still
     under its heavy, duckweed veiled carapace.  Who
would mistake it for a rock?  This panorama's radiance

     is what must have driven the crew in Columbus' ships
to drive in and swim ashore.  The history of their journey
     drowning in their mouths.  Call it green surrender.

At midday white light blanches the sand, the water,
     turning everything gauzy opaline.  The silken filter.
Heaven's color.  True color exalted in the eyes of God.

Conversation with Hart Crane

What shadows spoke to you under the poinciana?
An afternoon's fiery blossom		a bloodclot's demise.

What did you surrender?
	Everything, and then nothing.		A mockingbird's song,
	in this strange tongue of exile,			a coconut's lament
			          a swoosh of cut wind as it falls.

How did you feel the heat as you walked?
	Through the feet, the lapis lazuli water cool like promise
		of a tropical death in this Carib Isle?

Can you name this nameless island?
	The pearl of the Antilles, el cocodrilo,	desire's key
	Caliban's old haunt, among the fiddle crabs, black urchins
		starfish gathered during low tide

What did you see?
	How gold flecks fllew out of the sand with the morning's
	breeze,		"brutal necklaces of shells . . ."	a Cuban parrot
		out for food to feed its young.

Where did you go in bad weather?
	In such a place, there's little shelter.		Mango trees fall easily,
		so do thatched huts,		to a cave, a mossy cave,
			dark and humid,	lit a fire, kept warm

When the night came what happened?
	The moon exploded in the sky and the sea.		The stars speak in riddles
		how to find our way back to safety,		exile's tranquil shores.

			Where the world toils, then sleeps.
				Listen—these shadows breathe.


Some men have come open-armed to this land,
in their hands a fist-ful of ash, crushed repentance,
a bitter taste of old-world words biled on their
tongues. Behind their sunglasses, their orbed eyes
burn, red-hot cinders. At night they hush crickets
and frogs in their sleepless waking. They stomp
heavy through the platanales, their scraggly beards
itching against their bad skin. This is the land
of the broken, and lost. Nocturnal creatures bark
at the pock-marked moon. Restless shadows move
among the stillness of an empty hut, a vacant
hammock swaying gently where someone might
have rested. Some say the church upon the hill
glows at night, the cross on its steeple a beacon.
What drowns in the dark river waters before dawn
isn't animal, or human, but spectral, something
beyond this place. The many who gather will soon
know the secrets of this man's empty promises.
In his mouth, a shallow grave for a thousand men,
women, and children. Coiled in his fist, a snake-
rope for dragging down each body into doom's echo.

I - Driving With Strangers
II - Water Bird Practicing On Concrete
III - Double Layers
IV - Weary With Desire


Current Issue - Summer 2001