Alberto Has Visions

Alberto has visions.
You can see them mirrored
in his eagle eyes,
set in a face so finely etched
he might have carved it out himself
with the sharp edge of his chisel:
white bushy brows, unruly beard,
high forehead and prominent jaw
with two remaining teeth,
the face of a prophet
preaching in the wilderness,
his half-buttoned shirt
billowing in the wind
as he scales the rock face
with the sheer force
of his convictions.

The visions float like orchids
on the moonless night.
La Llorona howls in the pines,
weeping for her dear drowned children,
La Cegua in her corn leaf dress
stares through her long black hair
into your very soul.
He bars the door but still they come,
an endless succession of
serpents and wild beasts,
gentle Virgins and jilted brides,
wily devils and radiant saints
who hover over his sleep.

In the early morning mist
the jagged mountain peaks
are only faint blue shadows.
red-combed roosters
strut across the finca
like haughty lords.
Alberto rises from his bed,
a small cross in his hand.
He surveys the boulders and the cliffs

until he finds the perfect shape.
Then stroke by stroke, he engraves
upon the bare unyielding stone
the outline of his dreams.

His carvings line the wooded paths
between bromeliads and vines.
He points them out to us:
the towers of Jerusalem,
the volcanic lakes of Nicaragua,
Joseph and Mary in the manger,
one stately elephant
lumbering through the jungle.
Finally, he places in my hand
a white stone egg,
a rose marble sphere.
Here is the birth of Christ,
he says, here is the world.

(originally published in Buenos Aires Reader in Argentina)

 

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