The Coffin of a Constellation

June 6th, 2014


They can steady the coffin
of a constellation on their shoulders.
They can wreck
the air like furious birds,
blocking out the sun.

But not knowing these gifts,
they enter and exit through mirrors of blood,
walking and dying slowly.

And so,
one cannot forget them.

an excerpt from Roberto Sousa’s The Poor


I hid at the edge of the porch next to the seated ranchero with lustrous spurs. A group of sorority girls crowded my view of the boy whose grandmother had begged us to visit. He lay on a blanket, legs splayed apart in the impossible arabesque of cerebral palsy.

We volun-tourists were getting our money’s worth in the dusty red mountain village of Nuevo Paraiso, and I felt all the paradoxical emotions, the condescension, the prejudices, the impossible empathy of a 1st Worlder with 1st World concerns dunked into this foreign reality. I felt the ingrown ache of guilt as it curled back under my skin, and for those first few moments, I was ashamed. Ashamed, until I saw what the boy was doing.

Partially blind, he was compulsively twirling a red plastic coffee lid in front of his eyes, like some desperate senior trying to read the fine print on a life saving prescription bottle. The light refracting through the spinning lid was his Rosary, a kaleidoscopic meditation. In that instant, I, the Figurative Realist, understood Color Field and Abstract Expression.

“Life is but a dream…” the girls sang. Row Row Row Your Boat was the only song they could come up with after they balked at a familiar hit by Adelle. I felt like I was dreaming, or was this sensation an eerie dis-temporal epiphany that I was in the chorus on the edge of someone else’s dream, the glowing red hypnogagia of a poor disabled teenager on the side of a mountain in Honduras.

As a second and then a third round of that old minstrel song intertwined, so did our waking dreams enmesh.

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