Monday, January 11, 2010

Poetry - The Night We Danced Sequence, II

2. Evensong

La Rosita cranks up for the after-game rush –
the heavy smell of corn oil hanging over the parking lot
drifting toward campus, slick tendrils sliding
toward the bleachers. Masa coalesces
into the hands, slippery and smooth, of three sisters in the back
who slap the balls like new babies
into the churning tortilla press. Their father handles the long wooden spoon,
leans his face into the heat of the chile verde,
testing with his nose for cumin, green chiles, garlic.
Their ears perk for the roar of the crowd’s choral
lamentation or exultation depending on the score.
This is their science: put the carne asada on the grill when the marching band
thunders into the first mournful notes of the alma mater.

We agreed to meet after the game – sit with other faculty –
bump our fingers into one another reaching for the cilantro.
Maybe the garnishes in the Styrofoam bowl – sour cream, juicy tomatoes,
jalapeño slices, translucent onions
make me reject the safest choices,
see in your eyes a brightness, a delight, a delirium.

Eating cilantro for the first time is an act of faith.
The small chopped leaves so like clover, the long, long stems
still with the smell of damp earth – these things should taste like the lawn,
should be grassy, sharp, bitter, but instead they infuse
spicy foods with the mellowness of morning sun on soggy fields.

And the air, as it often does with these things,
sucks itself up and away in the crush of teenage bodies
and the hum of victory dances,
when you take my elbow and steer me out into the busy night
and toward the empty campus, to the low white plaster buildings
done in the smooth, old, Spanish style, falling
against the wall under the shadow of the eucalyptus,
and into your hands, slippery and smooth,
“Come Inside. Come Inside.” you whisper.
And I reshape myself to your palms.

Notes on Evensong Evensong is an Anglican tradition dating back to the 1500's. Evensong is the choral service sung at vespers. In this poem the singing of the crowd triggers the events of the poem.

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