© 2005 - 2008 Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas.
How changeless at first glance, these days that glide,
docile beads on a string, till side by side,
in retrospect, they coax the eye to see
distinctions where it saw identity:
this bead duller than that, and that less round,
one dimpled. Or suppose a figured ground
where pale denial whispers into view,
once bolder patterns tell what they hold true.
Such images instruct, as if one were
no mere collector, but a connoisseur
of sameness, an authority on gray,
interpreter of silences that say
what must divide one moment from the next,
with just minute mutations of the text.
A man replies, “No license, me no drive!”
to men in green who represent the state
and check the bus at random; at the wheel,
the driver fumes: his task is to arrive
punctually at the depot, and he’s late.
And you observe, wondering how to deal
with this scene: a fellow rider cuffed in steel
for lack of an ID. But what to do?
Urge him—in Spanish—to cooperate?
Or speak for him, and risk sharing his fate
by angering these guardians of the hive,
who may decide you look suspicious too?
Remind yourself that this is nothing new,
that soon he’ll be released, unhurt, alive?
Two Poems by Rhina P. Espaillat