Morning In The Mission; Grandpop Comes To Visit
The fog drifts in like an old man
licking the wet end of an ancient cigar.
It’s my grandfather, dead these thirty years.
I smell his breath rising from the open backs of trucks,
where men stand knee-deep in corn, tossing ears into crates
and shouting to each other in Spanish.
I taste him in the coffee I buy at the corner,
bitter as an alarm clock, real as dirt. Slosh a little libation
onto the curbstones. A long-gone
taste of what you’ve been missing, Grandpop. You’ve come
such a far way from Brooklyn, just to visit me.
All these years I’ve never felt him near me, never tasted
his presence. Dead is dead. So tell me
how it happens that Yinglish becomes Spanglish after the family
has scattered to strange cities and changed names
a few times, but still the blood
in my veins sings, Morning, morning. Our lives are rain
poured into the ocean, rough surf, sweet surf, and souls often skip
generations, playing tiddlywinks with Western logic.
So Grandpop rides his old newspaper truck past 24th and Mission
in the early morning chill, as if it were New York in the fifties. He’s still
smoking the cheap stogies that killed him, and he’s in his shirt sleeves,
though July here will freeze you faster than vanished love. The dead don’t care
anymore about such things. But they like to do a day’s work
through us, now and then, when we let them. And they appreciate
the chance to look around, see how things have changed.
That woman there, biting into a wet plum, I’d like to bury
my face in her cleavage and just inhale. In my day, ladies
didn’t wear their underwear on the streets, but who’s to say?
I might get used to seeing you in tights.
The kids are cute as city squirrels; their big eyes shine, and you wish —
oh, you don’t have anything to wish for
anymore, but, if you could hold one of them again,
it would be the world. One day you’re going to be looking back, like me,
through the eyes of some young person, and everything will look different.
The grit in your eyes will be gone, and streets will shine silver
when lights hit them, and you’ll see jewels
everywhere, even on the battered face of the old guy with two brown
teeth left in his head who mutters gibberish to no one on the corner of South Van Ness.
You’ll hear him swearing, “Hijo de puta! Pendejo!”
and you’ll swear it’s a prayer
for the living who drive their trucks and take their buses
and jingle loose change in their pockets, like they always did —
the busy ones, like you, who think,
think, think about everything except this life
here, now, under their feet, a new day wrapped in fog
like a birthday present, its ribbons shining
while you stand preoccupied at the curb,
waiting for the everlasting green light.