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The Missouri Review 27.3 (2004) 52-53
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Muchas Gracias, My Love
In Houston, awaiting your flight—you have been days
in transit—you try to wash your hair in the bathroom sink,
you are bent over. The slight strain of water stops and starts.
It is an automatic faucet, quick-spouting, parsimonious,
its red eye does not acknowledge your head. Your hands shake,
frustration seeping through your grip of the trivial. The Earth
has become larger for you and still there is the trouble of water—
the planet has run a shining across your body, and of all things:
a faucet and water.
In Nepal a woman closes the eyes of her son. It will be
days before her fingers lose the feel of his lashes, prickled as the tip
of wheat, whispered shut. In Seoul, a man must decide who he loves,
that simple, horrific selection. Guatemala, and a peddler of bracelets
takes your quetzal, slowly, turning over strands of color in her lap so
that you, too, might be beautiful in the fading light of Lago de Atitlán.
It's true: countries outsplay their four to six sentences from the guide;
countries mark themselves by the puckers of their currency,
the customs agent who examined your pairs of underwear, one by one.
The toothless man singing, his sitar hemorrhaging in the stale air
of the ports. You have never been more sure of stillness than in flight
over Thailand, each hour a child in your lap, slack, sleeping.
In your dream, the silent dance, the bamboo aftershave you bought
for your brother, the people of each place more real than your hand,
pressed to the scalp. As you wake, bamboo sprouts in your soup. [End Page 52]
A woman who cleans the bathrooms brings a cup. She has come
out of nowhere, speaks no English. You are grateful, Gracias
sits easily on your tongue, Muchas gracias, the cup in her hand,
your head again in the sink. And as the water streaks over your neck
you feel the woman's fingers, working the shampoo into its tepid foam.
There, your face in the white bowl, her hands in your hair, you
are saying Thank you Thank you, you cannot stop or switch to Spanish,
and now she is saying it also, Thank you Thank you Thank you.