At a small monastery — or what had been
a monastery — outside Obrégon, we stopped;
you were suffering the hollow nausea of your first
pregnancy, sleeping as best you could
through the thousand miles of pines
and rocky fields of northern Mexico, so I went ahead
through the saddle-colored rooms, past
the broken church and the row of empty sheds,
where Indian women, according to a sign,
once baked the flat bread called sapatos de Maria,
to a garden in the back, over the parapet of which
I could see the river through some willows: a rinsed
bed of sand, dry now in winter.
I didn’ t want a child,
and I was tired of closeness, tired
of being kind, so was glad to be alone
a while and lay down under a jacaranda tree,
and watched through leaves the changing pattern
of the sky, which I was tired of too, the scaly, stratospheric
winter clouds, edged with light, like the tiny waves
you pointed out, reflected on the bottom of a bridge
we rowed under in a rented boat, the day you told me
of the child — I was tired and slept.
It was nearly evening when I woke, two mestizo women
hurried talking through the tulip beds, the sky was pale.
They’ d set small plaques among the plants,
naming them, the ornamentals and the fruit. Some,
so the writing said, were descendants
of the cuttings brought from Spain by monks;
intermingled here — Pinot grape with ocotillo,
damascena rose — they thrived. I thought of certain
tenderness, and forbearance, a man might bring
to vines and simple vegetables, cultivated
in memory of his home perhaps, in a foreign place;
and thought how sometimes what passes on from us
has little to do with what we hoped, but nonetheless
carries word of who we were and what we found.
For a moment then, among the arbors and the flower beds,
I did not feel so distant from this time and place,
and the edge of my own local fears began to dull.
I plucked a sprig — a leaf was all —
from a holly bush, and brought it out to you,
a little stronger in a portion of myself, a little
reconciled, though I couldn’ t know then
that in a month we would lose the child,
and in time you would pass,
like a squandered fortune, from my life.