Sunday, November 2, 2008

Poem Read at the Mayor's Awards Dinner


Late autumn blows leaves into women’s hair. On the plaza,
Lydia feeds the pigeons—iridescent feathers gone blue
in the tangerine sun. It is afternoon and adobe,
crush of pueblo-style hotel rooms against a sky
that holds them steady. Her skirt is wound in ribbons,
gathered in ruffles, wind-flipped velvet, black and silver.

Merrymakers tumble from the doors of La Fonda, blue
windbreakers and cowboy hats. Spun from adobe,
they rush by Lydia like a tornado. A glance at the sky
stuns them, for a moment, then they’re a ribbon
of raucous laughter. Sunlight descends in silver,
travels the metal rain gutters, trimming the plaza

in a membrane of liquid light. Like the gold (not adobe)
the Spaniards thought they saw, coffers as wide as sky
over Seven Cities. Lydia pulls on her coat, pushes on ribbon,
remembers there’s jewelry to be sold, turquoise and silver
flashing like eye-lets along the streets of the plaza.
These days, under the shade of the portal, there’s the blue

of lapis and sapphire, too. All the colors of sky
remind Lydia of dawn, on the mesa, digging. Ribbons
of pale blue embedded in rock and aching for silver.
Now the stone-cold cuff on her wrist jolts her back to the plaza,
the bracelets for show and sell, cupped in the pale blue
of a tourist’s cashmere gloves. Not unlike adobe

cast into bricks and walls, hugging windows ribboned
in Virgin Mary ultramarine. Bells swing and ring the silver-
toned song of the cathedral. It’s a late Mass, the nave a plaza
of bowed heads. Where Lydia prays, the vault is a blue
arc from mountain to mesa, over the endless adobean
earth. Lydia knows it as the one, limitless sky

that cradles everyone from above--the caricaturist, silver-
haired, at his booth, the Mexican girls skipping in the plaza,
the santero wrapping up Saint Agnes in crisp blue
tissue paper. It’s October. The day feels old as adobe,
new as the drugstore’s cursive neon sign (sky-
high and glowing), fluid as the clouds’ unruly ribbons.

My hair is silver, thinks Lydia, the veins in my hands are large
and blue; my legs are earth-bound adobe. This plaza floats
on time’s swirling ribbons. I’m swaddled; I’m half-swallowed in sky.

V. Martinez, copyright 2008

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