Updated on October 12, 2010
Martin Espada, City of Glass
Martin Espada is one of our nations great poets. We are lucky to have him as a resident of the “Happy Valley”. I was honored to photograph him recently up at my studio. To reach his home page follow this link. Here is a poem by him, from his new book, The republic of Poetry.
For Pablo Neruda and Matilde Urrutia
La Chascona, Santiago de Chile
City Of Glass.
The poet’s house was a city of glass:
cranberry glass, milk glass, carnival glass,
red and green goblets row after row,
black luster of wine in bottles,
ships in bottles, zoo of bottles,
rooster, horse, monkey, fish,
heartbeat of clocks tapping against crystal,
windows illuminated by the white Andes,
observatory of glass over Santiago.
When the poet died,
they brought his coffin to the city of glass.
There was no door: the door was a thousand daggers,
beyond the door an ancient world in ruins,
glass now arrowheads, axes, pottery shards, dust.
There were no windows: fingers of air
reached for glass like a missing lover’s face.
There was no zoo: the bottles were half-moons
and quarter-moons, horse and monkey
eviscerated with every clock, with every lamp.
Bootprints spun in a lunatic tango across the floor.
The poet’s widow said, We will not sweep the glass.
His wake is here. Reporters, photographers,
intellectuals, ambassadors stepped across the glass
cracking like a frozen lake, and soldiers too,
who sacked the city of glass,
returned to speak for their general,
three days of official mourning
announced at the end of the third day.
In Chile, a river of glass bubbled, cooled,
hardened, and rose in sheets, only to crash and rise again.
One day, years later, the soldiers wheeled around
to find themselves in a city of glass.
Their rifles turned to carnival glass;
bullets dissolved, glittering, in their hands.
From the poet’s zoo they heard monkeys cry;
from the poet’s observatory they heard
poem after poem like a call to prayer.
The general’s tongue burned with slivers
invisible to the eye. The general’s tongue
was the color of cranberry glass.