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Poem Number 67

"Selva" means forest or jungle.

Watching the Mayan Women

Luisa Villani

I hang the window inside out
         like a shirt drying in a breeze
and the arms that are missing come to me

         Yes, it's a song, one I don't quite comprehend
although I do understand the laundry.
         White ash and rain water, a method
my aunt taught me, but I'll never know
         how she learned it in Brooklyn. Her mind
has gone to seed, blown by a stroke,
         and that dandelion puff called memory
has flown far from her eyes. Some things remain.
         Procedures. Methods. If you burn
a fire all day, feeding it snapped
         branches and newspapers—
the faces pressed against the print
         fading into flames-you end up
with a barrel of white ash. If
         you take that same barrel and fill it
with rain, let it sit for a day,
         you will have water
that can bring brightness to anything.
         If you take that water,
and in it soak your husband's shirts,
         he'll pause at dawn when he puts one on,
its softness like a haunting afterthought.
         And if he works all day in the selva,
he'll divine his way home
         in shirtsleeves aglow with torchlight.


from Hayden's Ferry Review, Issue 26, Spring / Summer 2000
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Copyright 2000 by Luisa Villani.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced with permission (click for permissions information).