The Cloud Unfolding

Ernesto Trejo

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It starts with the picture of my grandfather,
machinegunned in his car, Packard De Luxe, 1923.
A snapshot with poor composition, slightly
out of focus, it holds the forty-three
bullets that pushed for light or air
& which now find their black spaces and obey
our eyes. His last curse will never leave
this picture, his body will never
leave that car, his blood will forever
cake on the red upholstering
(Someone pulled you out of the car, someone
unfolded a blanket over your face not knowing
that you wanted to see that cloud unfold
over the whole sky
or gather into rain & flood your eyes.
Your last curse gave way to visions of battle,
of other men, never yourself,
dying in the heat & the dust).
In El Paso my grandfather once stayed up
all night & when the sun rose he shaved the goa
tapped over his heart & felt the fake passport.
Later he emerged from the hotel a businessman,
like Lenin, & walked six blocks to the train sta
a black mushroom in the fog,
a piece of shit under the sky of El Paso
or Geneva, a sky that ate his shirts & sucked
his head into a chisel of anger.
Further back, in one autumn the Eiffel went up,
a symbol of itself, & every washerwoman
felt proud of her city
(But one night, in 1936, the tower would crack,
collapsing over Los Angeles, against the pave
dressed with spit & yellow newspapers
that told the Negroes Burn, Generation of Vipers
& the Mexicans Go Back Where You Came From.
Roosevelt, the syphilitic Jew, will sell
to the Germans tomorrow at 10:15. My father
is in his kitchen, dropping ice cubes in a glass
of water, when the phone rings & a man
tells him that his bar is in flames.
When my father arrives at the bar, nine years
of good luck go up in smoke & someone tells
it was the Negroes, your brother refused them
My father nods, not knowing why, & stands
there for hours following the slow cloud from his bar
until the sun silhouettes the church two blocks
& he thinks that shadow is a bad omen).
Father, for the rest of your life, in Mexico,
you never mentioned the fire
but spoke of flappers, of Roosevelt, of Chaplin
devoured by a clock on his way to work.

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