Bolivian Orphanage, Late in the Day
The winter streets wrap python arms
around the rain’s legs as it kicks soft doors
the mountains keep shut. The orphans hang from bars
true as condors’ shadows. My companion
sees her eyeless face in chicken-wired glass.
Ten years down, I shiver in her tears,
filling the riverbeds where mothers die in shame.
The nuns sweep in like thunderheads,
booming catechisms in nameless dusk.
I bear her secrets across arroyos.
Neither of us knows this, but the orphans
are promises we’ll never learn to make.
A girl of eight sobs at the end of her tether,
a balloon let go we watch grow smaller in the sky.
If we could only soar to catch the string.
We are told to sit on chairs set down as rafts
to watch the drowning disappear. If I could
reach her. I know her arms hang limp as corpses
of a lie she drags up slopes by twilight.
I know this now: I couldn’t translate then.
Our lack of Spanish kept our breath one cloud
as orphans’ wails wrung garments of air
woven from marrow and laundered in brine.
If I had known, I would have stripped us both
naked as boys in corners, matted our hair with fables.
The playground exit was shut to penance.
In each other’s eyes we planted crosses
of ice in snow-capped mountaintops.
We clung to them, so winter would forget.
Behind us orphans shrieked their solitary gales.
George Guida is the author of eight books, including four collections of poems—Pugilistic, The Sleeping Gulf, New York and Other Lovers and Low Italian. Recent poems have been featured on both VerseDaily and PoetryDaily. He teaches English and creative writing at New York City College of Technology, serves as Poetry Editor of 2 Bridges Review, and lives on Long Island and in Western New York with his wife and son.