Watching the Mayan Women


I hang the window inside out
            like a shirt drying in a breeze
and the arms that are missing come to me

            Yes, it's a song, one I don't quite comprehend
although I do understand the laundry
            White ash and rain water, a method
my aunt taught me, but I'll never know
            how she learned it in Brooklyn. Her mind
has gone to seed, blown by a stroke,
            and that dandelion puff called memory
has flown far from her eyes. Some things remain.
            Procedures. Methods. If you burn
a fire all day, feeding it snapped
            branches and newspapers–
the faces pressed against the print
            fading into flames–you end up
with a barrel of white ash. If
            you take that same barrel and fill it
with rain, let it sit for a day,
            you will have water
that can bring brightness to anything.
            If you take that water,
and in it soak your husband's shirts,
            he'll pause at dawn when he puts one on,
its softness like a haunting afterthought.
            And if he works all day in the selva,
he'll divine his way home
            in shirtsleeves aglow with torchlight.


Luisa Villani, Hayden's Ferry Review, Issue 26, Spring/Summer 2000.