Janine Kelley

Panis coelicus fit panis hominum* - Cesar Auguste Franck

In Zihuatenejo, the mountain
like a sleeping woman curves into the sea,
crimson bougainvillea leap the highest walls
embedded with crushed glass,
and a rooster
wakes even the soul-less.

Machetes sanctify the maize with blood,
while birds nest in homes pocked with bullet holes.
Bastante scrawls across the farm
where the ghost of Zapata
whispers to writers in their dreams.
Near a shed, a proud mother hums a folk song,
weaving a corn-silk doll
to celebrate Sofia’s First Communion.
And the editor of El Mundo, he lies in the field,
his face bone, his skin
hanging from a blossoming pear tree.

Dostoyevsky said Beauty will save the world.
Christ said the fruit of the spirit is Gentleness.

In the market a butcher holds a plucked chicken.
He winks at the young girl
grinding maize for tortillas, innocent
of the tumor in her breast ticking.
Old men at checkers sit calmly for Death,
as he draws their portrait,
thinking of those who wait in fields with outstretched arms.
And los viejitos tend bare-legged children
who play in soft rain, leaping wet sewage
swimming like a dark prayer through Jalisco.

The cathedral in Mexico is sinking.
An old cura blesses the feet of drunks
snoring on rough benches.
A boy rubs his body with Saint Philomena’s relic
displayed to lure pesos
from the poor and tourist alike.
The sad aria of the widow echoes at Mass
where rows of candles dance in dark light.
A drunk pauses, to comfort. She turns
like a rose searching for sun. The boy
offers the relic. While in the courtyard,
an Aztec pulsates to ancient rhythms,
his body a spiral of feathers and fury,
speaking the greatness of his people before Cortez.

On what circle of hell did Dante place those who build walls?

In the bus station, la curandera purses her lips,
opens a woven basket, and presents a pear
to a young man coughing.
I have tools, he boasts, I can fix anything!
Toothless, the old woman smiles.
She pats his hand and takes up her crocheting.
She has many grandchildren.
Two art students, traveling to Cuernavaca
to study the murals of Diego Rivera,
sketch an old couple sloping like hills one
into the other, one blanket hugging their shoulders.

The baker, white as an angel, stoops at his shelves.
The noses of children press close;
a tourist tosses pennies, caught
by hands, small as doves, that fly
to la panadería to taste the vanilla
floating with the songs of mariachis;
the trumpeting and laughter,
ascending red tile roofs, reaching fields
where the rooster
always remembering the dawn cries out.

*The bread of heaven is made the bread of men - from an aria by the 19th century French composer Cesar Auguste Franck, an organist at the Church of Sainte Clothilde, Paris. Perhaps Franck is most noted for his oratorios Ruth (1846) and Les Beatitudes (1879).