I help a judge empty his office and am rewarded
with a cap on which an eagle clutching arrows
spreads the golden wings of Washington’s authority.
I bear no federal power but on summer rides
acquire a taste for doubletakes, flinches and nods
that come without any pretense on my part,
I tell myself, mounting up for spins through
a noticing citizenry. A September festival
celebrates the butterfly that through my northern
city also dawdles, lolls and zooms. Science
displays, puppet shows, wide drums, and dancers
in feathery, pre-Colombian regalia
intermarry cultures that an insect connects.
I make a Sunday of it, belly up to a food
stand selling Mexi-Corn—roasted sweet
corn drenched in butter and cream then
sprinkled with crumbly cheese. It’s delicious
my wife will agree, after making room
for me on a wooden bench facing
spirited interpretations of Toltec and Maya.
The brown-skinned proprietor turns
and gives the nod to a man behind him
who’s missing some teeth, who reaches
into a roaster that has simplified his hand
while aging it. Two younger fellows
chopping onions and peppers at a counter
have slowed, wary, watchful. When
from the main stage a horn sounds
four times—long, clear and sweet—
the ache of migration is in the sound
but it’s not plaintive, not in any way.
While filling a paper boat with melted
fat for my ear the man stops and asks
if I know why they do that. I answer
without thinking much. In inflected
English he says no, it’s the directions,
if you don’t forget them you can get
back again. And he glances skyward
as his ancestors might have while
mine were inventing pollution. I say
yes, it’s very beautiful, I’ve taken
lots of pictures. My change is five times
what the item cost and twice what I paid.
When my beak closes I have lost my way.