India / “A Portuguesa”
I knock on my tenant’s front door, a foreign sounding doorbell
déjà vu and knuckles. It is a strange feeling to stand outside
own home and smell different scents emerging.
His hand feels like a sprinkle of carnations, the same hand
signed the lease, took my keys a week before without revolt.
newly finished floor, I see a reflection of a man who walks barefoot
like a conquistador over my ghost. We are not at war in this
he–a first-generation Indian; me–a third-generation
Portuguese; each of us
knows the history of my ancestors’
oppression, the old dominations.
I am only here to attach plastic corner protectors on the wall
in the kitchen. He has carefully covered my countertops
with the veins
of a marble graphic contact paper.
His wife offers me apple juice while I sweat in work. I imagine
on the shores of Calicut, of Goan, someplace to sell my
shoes, while my skin
browns alongside the cardboard American pieces
of me I have recently moved.
I want to be merchant of not even the air between the walls, to
no longer a zip code stranger...lessee or lessor. Let my
tenant’s mail be routed
to my former home and my letters held by
unknown sultans in two states.
The Nurses Will Not Listen to You Speak About Work
For Joseph Negri
What is it for you to be onerous after surgery,
returns to choler, the moaning shape
of the pachysandra in a
groundskeeper’s work hours,
awareness of the tubes, the sedated
pitch of daylight?
More medication, morphine makes you less conscious
of the stalled
earthmovers in your shoulders; ignore
the sound of lawn mowers
trimming where you are
chopfallen, the vascular trenches you did not
Now, lie down in the white warmth, be a veteran,
widower, a johnny-coated octogenarian. Rest awhile–
Grandfather among the flowers;
touch them, even,
with your sundry callouses before you are
Quay note: Carvalho also interviewed
Martín Espada in this issue.