blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2010  Vol. 9  No. 2
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Ramón’s Eyes

            for Ramón Valdez, with thanks

He must be part iguana, one eye
fast on gravel curves, one eye
scanning the canopy.

Even when he points,

half the time, we're blind.
Driving the bus, he guides us
toward sight.

He's sharp as razor wire
no matter where we are—
city, cloud forest, coast.


In the rainforest,
speaks quetzal,

whistles tanager, thrush,
hummingbird, finch,
sooty robin, wren.

When he calls,
they come closer,

He's silent, though,
when the giant tinamou

with no warning
across our path.


Cousin to the vireo, Ramón,
ruby eyes flaming, builds a
cup nest in the canopy.

He catches in bare hands
a tiny flash of green—
speckled ranita,

poison dart frog,
set out so we can see.
Our leader says,

See what Ramón
just did?
Don't do that.


Dust so thick, we lose
the truck in front,
the one behind.

An oxcart lunges
up onto road top,
overloaded, red tangles

of just-harvested
palm nuts, black knobs
pressed for oil.

Along the coast,
Ramón swerves to the verge,
sets the brake.

In one tree,
two, three,
six macaws, raucous,

twenty now,
on the wing.


Ramón directs us
to the roadside stand
where on the last day

he picks up queso,
mango, heart-shaped
milk candies. Home.

If you ever fly north,
Ramón, nuestro casa
es su casa.

Ramón's eyes fill—
Y mi casa es suyos . . .
is small, my house,

but yours.
Ramón, whose daughter chose
for her quinceanera

six friends from school,
a cake her mamá baked,
and her family.

Ramón, looking cloudward
for the rains, season
when he rests

in his own nest
after months on the road
barely blinking.  end

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