Let me be your ice,
the boy says in the Texas heat,
black mestizo eyes,
broad face, bare chested, barely sixteen,
say this to me
near Losoya and Commerce,
where I have been approached before
by a black mother for bus fare, an exhausted
daughter cranky in her arms,
in the hotel district, overlooking the Riverwalk,
its paved water-level
pathways flooding with tourists, flowers, and noise,
an attempt at urban renewal
where lovers meet
beneath the pecan trees after store owners
roll down the protective metal grills.
This boy offers to cool me down
on a day hotter than blood,
when, dehydrated and sun-stroked,
all I want after hours
of pilgrimage to the four
tumbledown stone missions give this
lonely city some kind of heart
is something cold —
I will take almost anything,
having stopped at this
snow-cone stand where he seems to have
waited all afternoon for someone
dazed and weary, rubbing
the girl who works it, who tries
to block him from me;
the scooped-out globes of crushed ice
she gives me for so little
staining my tongue cherry-red.
This cone of mire Arctic
in my hand barely slakes
my thirst and the boy follows
as I move on, wants to
guide me wherever it is I want to go,
back to my hotel if need be
Let me be your ice,
mister, you’re so hot, you better lie down.
The scored veins of his arms
are clotted with stigmata,
boy with the eyes of the Virgin
of Guadeloupe whose gaze
sun-crazed I felt
follow me from nave to nave down the poorly
marked Mission Trail last night
in the bars along San Pedro.
Dark-ees men who flew with the USAF
the only time they left Texas.
Their looks make my blood
tingle with cayenne, these grounded
flyboys who like to two-step at the Silver Dollar,
who joyride in pickups after hours
all the way down to the Alamo.
And this is where I leave him,
at the monument to Col Travis and Davy Crockettt
and the 189 white patriots
who were not the only ones to fall.
Something marketable in San Antonio’s history
not lost on him
as he starts to explain,
this aggressively beautiful boy
who, as the twilight
breezes lift stray
newsprint from the gutter,
looks hungry as well as cold,
who I refuse with money, not knowing what
icy current of death
he might also carry in his blood.
Order your copy of For the Boy with the Eyes of the Virgin here, and check out the next issue of Xtra, Oct 3, for my interview with the poet John Barton.
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