We drink milk with minor courage
borne of need, borne of poverty
We’d learn much from the books, every day would
carry an epistemological imperative,
with moccasins to our feet.
Survival depends on fidelity to internal revenue,
and observance of parsimony.
We could present something hopeful instead,
something emblematic of improved life.
In the bath, we pilfer the tooth paste.
We are trying to make our way.
Orange rinds decay at the table;
the bread begins to grow stale.
We awaken to visions and risk surrender to exact change --
we consume and live in abundance,
but dream of metamorphoses,
dream of self-government
before the white of an egg.
Lying in bed, we wait for the circulars’ deals,
for indicators of the market’s villainy.
We parse books before work;
timidly we pace over foundations
and use interpretation for the octopus tin.
In winter, socks are thicker.
We wash underarm, wash feet with the fury
of our prudery--
right hand probing left
with uncoordinated feel for the surface.
Its touch, thorough and adulterous--
water at arm’s length.
to be simple again and cease to be surprised
by anything we produce.
A dull towel unattended in its drying at the sill
and us bent to a new posture with the effort
of our thinking, we would have more to tell of, surely, more
of love, more to understand.
And under sheets of standard count, the wall’s gradual
fade touches morning
to make the most of the result: in the streets
of the Czech Republic, the populace divests
underground, at the locker room or the Elbe’s drained basin.
The eyes seek, attracted, in the first instance,
to the place of waste
and the fullness of incident.
At this stage in the story,
skin appears under influence. And once, driven
to be pleased
with Vaseline, it is cast with resultant on the back,
on the mouth or on the ground.
My life—in which I dispose of recovery
with the pretense
of wholesomeness in the last of my clean
would have wanted me had I the need
for my name & episodes
while the young changed
with a future for impure habits—and I would
too, with inferred courage
I could find in myself today.
My life is ready for loyalty and solicitation,
as it listens, as the Republic frays
with jet-packs and adventures in ardor.
Ricardo Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is the translator of Dinapiera Di Donato’s Colaterales (Akashic Books/National Poetry Series) and the recipient of fellowships in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts and Queer Arts Mentorship. He is managing director at the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center.