Lunch at the Library – by Robin Scofield

I. San Miguel de Allende, January 2006

Frida Kahlo’s parrots chatter over onion and chile
in the upper valley that vanishes like smoke at sunset.
A road comes out of my daydreams and what’s strange
is how I kind of smile, and it runs to my belly-button
on the high Mexican plateau of the revolution. It runs
like bougainvillea in the stones where the parrots convene.
My scars stay in the mirror with tin shapes on the side.
I wouldn’t take them outside in the market even though the acacia
is sweet this time of year when the moons of Jupiter prove
the cosmos inconstant and the hummingbird attacks the cat.
Yes, I love him and feed him, but I have my hat on backward
like Monsieur Verdoux (in Valéry) who couldn’t kill the blind
girl, having made a deliberate decision not to love and be loved.
The mirror and the moons are not at fault
but somehow I am, as well as the audience who laugh
at M. Verdoux’s sartorial distress. On our border, tires burn,
copper smelts, refineries blacken, and I taste sulfur
on yellow air. Roots stay on the surface and reach across
the Franklins, the Organs, la Sierra del Cristo Rey.
Coyote bones bounce across water. Raven tries to warn
the tourists as a pale green collared lizard runs after a century
of war that did not end. I cannot tell you what month
the viper gives birth. But I skitter past the brackish cliff
in wintertime, too, climbing 3,000 feet. And here,
where I sit remembering, are orange trees and a glass
fountain where the water doesn’t run this year.

II. Upon Finding 400 Pesos in the Juárez Bus Station

A yellow toad asks me to gamble and I spit out a gold coin.
Dark Madonnas bless me for returning two Sor Juanas to them.
I could not do less once I saw them searching their bags.
Pink stucco blossoms gray and white with disrepair.
St. Peter’s magnet doesn’t work, he needs the internet café,
a phone with all manner of hermit’s melodies, ugly
as a new-hatched pigeon. When dawn’s gray feathers break,
a thousand cormorants break from lake to river, upstream.
Hawks float. I don’t need a guitar. I have pebbles.
I have brown sugar. I have the toad’s belly.

III. Souls in Purgatory

Moth wings cover the steps at 21 Animada Privada.
A carved wooden door swings shut in the mirror, equally framed
in tin, bronze, and copper—a leopard moving in stippled light.
A small brown man lights a wood fire with a jar of kerosene.
Green birds startle from the bougainvillea, rosy leaves
crinkled but soft, unlike paper, while notebooks scatter on
polyester bedspreads, laptop in the chair near the frail outlet.
A basket of tangerines so tart they sting. Raphael
with a striped bass and fish gutter candle beside them.
The man sweeps the cobblestones every morning
while her sketchbook below the blackbirds remains closed.
Pepper trees twist over the stairs to the roof garden
with brick arches like an insect’s carapace.
The vermilion flycatcher peers from the pole, draped in wire.
The fence is a cobalt blue we have not seen before.

IV. At the Biblioteca Publica

A freeze burned the poinsettias. Today,
a silver rain of bird poop. I need the library of Babel
and Leibniz’ monads, not these spiders in the bookcases.
Through ground lenses the artist has rearranged the atoms
to fit lava rocks around this mirror as if it might be a hot spring
overgrown with moss. I smell gardenias before I see the candle
of Rafael holding a fish that tells the labyrinth what for before
I realize the books are on a copper table with wrenched iron
legs that tremble as much as the azucar under the weight of Epiphany
lights. I am cold as I write this while angels with beards, Ginsburg
and Kerouac, serve coffee. There’s no winter here. Cassady died
here, but there’s no room, not like the one named for those guys.
Borges and I eat sopapilla and arroz con huevos while dogs run
along rooftops, and sunlight leaks in through a tree, above the string of lights,
in the world’s most infinite library courtyard, open to the sky.

Robin ScofieldRobin Scofield is the author of Flow, named Southwest Book of the Year in 2019, and Sunflower Cantos (Mouthfeel Press, 2012). Her third collection, Ridge of High Pressure, is due out in summer 2023. Her poems appear in Cutthroat, The Banyon Review, and the San Pedro River Review. She writes with the Tumblewords Project in El Paso.