by Mark Brazaitis
We’ve come back to the Center to reflect,
a week to catch up and play volleyball,
announcing the score in Spanish
the way we did when we were learning.
Some who were with us have gone home:
Lauren broke her leg in a motorcycle crash;
bird-watching in Puerto Barrios,
Tim was jumped, his neck slashed;
on the black beach of Livingston, Sasha was raped.
You live two bus rides and nine hours from me.
Every other weekend,
I come to you or you to me.
We make love first, to free us from desire.
In the remaining hours,
we visit the zoo where you work,
see the gardens you have grown
with widows and wives whose husbands
spend weeks on cuxa drunks.
Who you were apart from Guatemala
I know only from the small stories you share:
Before you were eight, you lived
in six countries, read Portuguese before English,
learned to swim in pools in Denmark.
Your parents were circus freaks,
your joke. They’re both artists, divorced.
Your first boyfriend was Italian,
whispered love to you
although you didn’t understand.
Didn’t need to.
“Everything was in the tone of his voice.”
You like cats, want to be a veterinarian.
You like me and Traci and Susan.
This is all I know, and perhaps all I need.
As part of a game, we tape
blank pages to our backs.
With markers, we write
what we might be too shy to say.
I fill you with words of love,
a confident ditty: “Fly with me
into the 21st century.”
Traci and Susan scribble how pleased
they are to know you.
We receive an additional task:
“You must choose a father and mother.
Put your hands on their shoulders.”
I feel fingers on my arm, turn, find John.
Traci and Susan approach you, stop.
You are standing in a corner,