By C.D. Wright
Since the day the bell was cast
I have sat in the bishop’s carved chair, and the leather of my huaraches
cutting into the hide of my foot.
From where I was sitting I watched the light being drawn off
the magnolias in the Plaza de Armas
while the voices of the others choired an evening.
I have risen to the lectern when the eyes of the host summoned.
I faced the great open doors as the faces of strangers
acknowledged their own losses.
I saw the white trousers of the vendor flapping in the dust
his body engulfed in balloons,
the children selling Chiclets dispersed;
the shoeshine boy putting away his brushes, the sum of his inheritance.
I have read what was written there, said, Gracias, and sat down again.
I have climbed the pyramidal steps and felt winded and humbled.
I have stood small and borracha and been glad
of not being thrown down the barranca alongside the pariah consul
in the celebrated book.
In every sense have I felt lonelier than a clod of clay, a whip, a bolsa,
a skull of chocolate.
I have been lured by my host’s pellucid face and the blue salvia
where the rooster is buried.
Though I have worn the medal of the old town with forlorn pleasure
I say unto you:
Comrades, be not in mourning for your being
to express happiness and expel scorpions is the best job on earth.
C.D. Wright has published 13 collections of poetry and prose. “Like Hearing Your Name Called in a Language You Don’t Understand” is taken from her most recent book, “Rising, Falling, Hovering” (Copper Canyon, 2008), which in June won Canada’s Griffin Poetry Prize, bestowed by the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry. Wright has also received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation. In the ’90s, Wright served five years as the State Poet of Rhode Island. She is currently a professor of English at Brown University.