||Ubi patria - a prophesy before exile
Because her migrant tribe had left,
Leana, the gypsy we had hired first
to paint our house
found something else to do
when the painting was done
and then something else again
until it was clear she wasn't
going to leave as long as we fed her
and paid her - not much of a wage
for not much of a work, but enough
to keep her going Saturday at the bodega.
Leana, the Gypsy who limped her way
through ten pregnancies and gave one
healthy boy to each orphanage
on a thousand mile radius, until The State
declared her retarded, and spayed her,
Leana the 90 pounds, four foot, dark skin,
kinky hair, crooked legs, raspy voice
full of sharp bitter curses, is the best
dirge-howler-for-hire in town.
I keep telling her
to shut the hell up and help
with the packing, but there's no use.
are you goooiiinnng?" she howls again -
with one hand slapping her sunken cheeks
where real tears shine in grooves. "I thought
you of all people would understand," I say
"You're a Gypsy, you have
the mirage in your blood, the road,
the distance, the call of afar"
"What do you know of the road?" she sobs,
"There are __afars_ where not even your own
shadow would follow. The roads wear you
so hollow your bones change into echoes,
while the distance remains just that,
"O, stop it" I say, "I know where I'm going."
"You do?" she asks like a thespian, "And how
would you know you've arrived? Right off the bat
your eyes, your ears, your touch, your smell
will become slanderous witnesses; your homeland
a wind-swollen sail tied
to the oars of your soul will pull all truth
in one direction, relentlessly - away, seaward.
will be vast or auspicious for harbor,
no water deep enough to cast anchor.
A sky ashen and endless like any death,
and a slow grave beneath waves is all
that your eyes will see. Nothing will
speak of future, nothing
but a voice retelling the past. You
will be calling to angels and pagan gods
at the margins of belief, not knowing
if your own words are a prayer
or a curse.
will burn to ashes so many times telling
your story in the barbed wires
of new tongues but never be freed
of your lonely language. O! Where you go
even hunger breaks its neck."