Shaking the Kaleidoscope I

I cannot recall violence, only the cigar
smoke and the ruined air of traffic, exhaust
filling my nostrils, cannot recall
pistachios, the way the shell cracks
between teeth, or myself dropping
from a metal bar chipping my front tooth
on happiness, the stain of blood
in sand, nothing like the matador gored
in the groin, so that my lament rises
up next to Lorca and smells of wet ashes.

I cannot recall the sound of the trolley,
its chime diminished by cathedral
bells nor the prints my knees left in sand
when my mother lifted me to the car,
cannot recall the taste of honey
nor the voice of the vendor selling split
melons, nothing like the pigeon,
guttural warble echoing inside the jojoba,
iridescent neck collecting sunlight,
not unlike this street woman asking me
for un peso, her shoes as silent
as the voice that refuses. Not violence
to refuse a woman a handful of coins
for her story spelled out in the sad
leather of her everyday shoes.

I cannot recall violence, but one morning
my son’s face turned blue. I forced
my own breath into his lungs, cannot
recall the sound of waves claiming
shore or the way his feet toed-in,
only the cadence of silence, nothing like
the chain of mountain peaks suffering
from lack of rain. I cannot recall
the way a knife slices coconut
into quarter-moon wedges, cannot
recall cleats biting into cobblestone,
nor the bull lifting his horns to the groin,
the matador spilling onto sand, nothing
like the pomegranate or the blue face
of a child when his lungs will not pull air,
nothing like exhaust filling my nostrils
or pesos dropping into an open palm.

I cannot recall the taste on my tongue
when I was saved by the skin-of-my-teeth,
nothing like a-nick-in-time, the sharp
rasp of tooth against metal punctuating
sand with red, nothing like the matador
lighting his cigar, the infirmary bed
vibrating under his weight, nothing like
the word Olé etched in sand as bells shake
the sky from its reverie of white distance,
nothing like the dog with no collar sniffing
my left foot, the dog who stole the eyes
of the beggar woman. Pesos are not like violence,
they make no sound, unless you drop them
into a cup, nothing like the girl pulling a balloon
by the string. Her father calls, Marí, ven aquí,
and the balloon rises to the cathedral spire.

I cannot recall violence, how it wears a red
hat and stands  on the corner selling news, lives
on the beach in corrugated cardboard, changes
its name to Passion and stays out long after
midnight, cannot recall violence, but by the crack
of my teeth on metal, I knew the world resonated
with chipped porcelain, that I would go crazy,
have fun with it, shake it up, and return
to the sound of cathedral bells slicing sky
into bite size pieces, nothing like the woman
on the corner of Canal and Recreo peeling mangos
into ripe moons that resonate on my tongue.

(First published in Nimrod: Memory; Semi-finalist: Pablo Neruda Prize)