Weldon Kees in
Mexico, 1965
Evenings below my window
the sisters of the convent of Saint Teresa
carry brown jugs of water from a well
beyond a dry wash called Mostrenco.
Today it was hard to waken,
and I've been dead to the world ten years.
They tread the narrow footbridge
made of vines and planks, sandals clicking:
brown beads and white wooden crosses
between hands that are also brown.
Over the bridge they travel in a white-robed line
like innocent nurses to a field hospital.

Exactly ten. I've marked it on the calendar.
And Maria, who speaks no English,
is soaping her dark breasts by the washstand.
Yesterday she said
she'd like to be a painter, and sketched
on the back of a soiled napkin,
a rendition of a cholla
with her lipstick. She laughed,
then drew below each nipple
a smudged rose. Weldon
would have been repelled
and fascinated, but Weldon is dead.
I watched him fall to the waves
of the bay, the twelfth suicide that summer.
He would have been fifty-one this year,
my age exactly, and an aging man.
Still he would not be a fool
in a poor adobe house, unwinding
a spool of flypaper from a hook
above the head of his child bride.

When she asks my name, I tell her
I am Richard, a good Midwestern sound.
She thinks Nebraska is a kingdom
Near Peru, and I
the exiled Crown Prince of Omaha.
I've promised to buy her a box of paints
in a shop by my palace in Lincoln.
We'll go back, Maria and I,
with the little sisters of Saint Teresa
who are just now walking across the bridge
for water to be blessed at vespers.

--- From Interrogation Palace:
New and Selected Poems, 1982 - 2004

David Wojahn
©2006 The University of Pittsburgh Press
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