THE LOVE OF LATIN
By Howard Sage

Amidst the cost of all

that encompasses the

blankiverse these days,

tolls to pass this way or that,

lights to save pedestrians from

stalled vehicles en route

to dump their loads of food,

oil, chairs, desks, even

lumber here and there, betwixt

shuttered edifices that once

thrust bagels, foods, and band aids

at lined down customers,

in the midst of all the

paraphernalia that humps

upon the locus termed earth,

why do I recall only the note

you wrote on the back

of my business card to help me

read Catallus in the original?

Why?

                                                        En Route to Arequipa

I
At six I woke, ate,
bought our tickets for our
journey northwest to
Arequipa; we would stay two days,
move on to Puno by the Lake,
turn back to Arequipa and on,
further north, to Lima, to
complete our circuit begun
by air a week before. But
here we were, tickets
in hand, walking slowly
to the gate of Tacna’s dead.

II

Before we approached closely,
a boy, smudged face, of many boys and
girls
mumbled he would carry water,
if we would pay; no
one bargained. Flowers bought
at the door; we entered through a portal,
a tiled hall open to the
air, and slowly
through the dust walked
to the graves.

III

Aisles, left and right,
lay open to
our look; title, name
and dates, some clean
and neat, some obscure.
The boy’s hands, all yellow
and blue with swishing
pails, taking their own route
arrived to find with us the shelves
we sought. You bore your flowers
and your bag.
I carried flowers in one hand.

IV

High on a shelf your father lay.
Near him a cracked glass showed
Weathered wood, vintage 1911
dead. “Bring the stool,”
and the boy carried a ladder
twice his size
bent from many steps for you to
climb the awful climb, the
steep ascent bringing with
brave legs and
hands water first and
then, arranged and placed,
dipped in Tacna’s wine, the flowers.
In shadow and sun the boy un-awed and I, taut,
saw.

V

Down,
down you climbed, began
your descent, flesh
having returned to
flesh, to honor its
life, conception,
our life. Down,
down. Water and flowers for your
father’s
father,
my tears for my mother’s father;
past the grave
of Tacna’s poet, home
from Paris; past
Italian clans;
in front of
Anglo busts; through
portals;
facing other water carriers; past the
flower stands without
a word from us or
them; home;
at night, North
west to
Arequipa.

About the Author:

Howard Sage

Howard Sage has lived at HMC Street, Houston, Texas; 182 First Street, Perth Amboy, N.J., 6 Belsize Crescent, London, N.W., 3, and Tatung Lu, Tainan, Taiwan. He edited and published award-winning Pulp magazine for ten years, including in one issue his interview with Ralph Ellison

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