Francisco Aragón


after Rubén Darío

Should I quote the good
book you claim to know;

or perhaps our late bearded
bard—might these be ways

of reaching you? Primitive
modern, simple complex—

one part wily astute
animal, three parts owner

of a ranch: conglomeration
is what you are, poised

for another incursion.
Lean, strong specimen

of your breed, polite you
hardly read when not

in a saddle, or spreading manure.
You see a building in flames

as vital, progress a spewing
volcano. And where you point

and place your bullet
you stake the future—yours

and ours. And so:
not so fast. O there’s

no doubting the heft
of this nation: it moves it

shifts—a tremor travels
down to the tip

of the continent; you raise
your voice and it’s

bellowing we hear (The sky
is mine
), stars in the east

sun in the west. People
are clothes, their cars,

Sunday attire at church,
a harbor lady lighting

the journey with a torch.
But America, sir,

is North, Central,
and South—delicate

wing of a beetle,
thundering sheet

of water (our cubs
are crossing

over). And though,
O man of bluest eye,

you believe your truth,
it is not—you are not

the world.





Episode two with Peter Jennings:
Adolph, as a young man,
is denied entry to Art School. What
could be worse than a bitter, mediocre

artist with a plan? During
the second hour: a physicist
at twenty-four—the moving
picture a grainy grey: he nibbles

a strawberry, sips a flute of cava, swings
—in snatches of free time—
a racket, that stretch of his career at Los Alamos
intense. The Manhattan project.

Today another face enthralls—captured,
bruised—on Good Morning America: the screen
says Ramirez and I see a trace
of him: my brother at seventeen—those

postcards home from Camp
Pendleton, the scribbled pride
of his “ass-kicking platoon.” Reading them
I was following him: fourth-grader

as future chanting—
oblivious—the rich
syllables of a word,
a cause, a country, someone’s name.



n, Nicaragua

One evening water—

it fall, the night sweet

the breathing sigh
a sob

the sky’s amethyst

diluting his tears;
the fountain

mingles with
his fate—

the sound of my own

after Rubén Darío (1867-1916)




Despite the missing head (whose

eyes are apple-green),
the supple flesh glows
with the afterglow

of those eyes
which is why the curve
of chest shines which is why

the twist of loin turns
that look into a smile, snaring
your eyes, leading

them down to regions
below the waist—that block
of stone more than a figure

disfigured and short, cascade
of the shoulders glinting
like a sinewy beast

of prey, whose edges blink
like stars—that torso
gazing on its own: step closer:

go blind.

after Rilke



(Rubén Darío)

..............................Like glass

the color of mercury
it mirrors the sky’s
sheet of zinc, the pale grey
a burnish splotched

with a flock of birds
while the sun’s disc
like something injured crawls
slowly to the top

and the wind that blows
off the swells
in a trough,

its bugle a pillow.
Leaden waves crest
to groan near the docks

where he sits on thick
suspended rope,
smokes a pipe, his mind
sifting the sand in a faraway place.

An old wolf is what
he is. The light in Brazil
toasted his face. A strapping
storm from China

saw him tilt a flask of gin.
And foams laced
with salt, iodine
recall his curls, scorched

nose, his biceps
like those of an athlete,
his seaman’s cap
and blouse. A screen

of tobacco smoke
lifts as did the fog
off the coast
that blazing noon

he set sail. Siesta
in the tropics. Our wolf
is nodding off—a grey
filming it all, as if the line

denoting the horizon
in a charcoal sketch
were to blur,
disappear. Siesta

in the tropics. Old cicada
is plucking its hoarse
forgetful guitar
while cricket draws

its bow across the one
string on its fiddle.



A native of San Francisco, Francisco Aragón is the author of Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press) and editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press). His anthology credits include Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies (W.W. Norton & Co.), American Diaspora: Poetry of Displacement (University of Iowa Press), and Evensong: Contemporary American Poets on Spirituality (Bottom Dog Press). He holds degrees in Spanish from UC Berkeley and NYU, and an MA in English from UC Davis and an MFA from the University of Notre Dame. He is a Fellow at the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) at the University of Notre Dame and overseees—from their Washington, DC office—a number of projects that comprise Letras Latinas, the literary program of the ILS. Aragón is a board member at-large of the Guild Complex in Chicago and a member of the Macondo Workshop in San Antonio.


Published in Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 2007.

To read more by this author:
Francisco Aragón: Museum Issue
Francisco Aragon, Intro to Floricanto Issue, Volume 13:1 (Winter 2002)