It is Friday morning. I’m in bed; there’s a knock at the door. I say: “yes” though I mean: “Si,” and, before I can correct myself, three’s another, more desperate, knock.
It is Mari. She has seven people who don’t speak Spanish and want three or four rooms and are a day late and two more people are arriving later. And, they’re not sure if they’re too tired or too hungry or if they’re paying in pesos or dollars.
I want to say: time out. There are so many of them, and they are noisy and it’s early and they want scissors and pans and directions and to know where to get breakfast. (I will soon be giving them a small tour of the neighborhood.)
They want to know why I’m here and if I’ll be here every day with them to translate, and Mari is still totaling their bill, and I am still in my pajamas, delighting in the extemporaneous show delivered to my doorstep.
When he got up that morning everything was different:
He enjoyed the bright spring day
But he did not realize it exactly, he just enjoyed it.
And walking down the street to the railroad station
Past magnolia trees with dying flowers like old socks
It was a long time since he had breathed so simply.
Tears filled his eyes and it felt good
But he held them back
Because men didn’t walk around crying in that town.
Waiting on the platform at the station
The fear came over him of something terrible about to happen:
The train was late and he recited the alphabet to keep hold.
And in its time it came screeching in
And as it went on making its usual stops,
People coming and going, telephone poles passing,
He hid his head behind a newspaper
No longer able to hold back the sobs, and willed his eyes
To follow the rational weavings of the seat fabric.
He didn’t do anything violent as he had imagined.
He cried for a long time, but when he finally quieted down
A place in him that had been closed like a fist was open,
And at the end of the ride he stood up and got off that train:
And through the streets and in all the places he lived in later on
He walked, himself at last, a man among men,
With such radiance that everyone looked up and wondered.
From “A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry,” edited by Czeslaw Milosz (Harcourt Brace: 320 pp., $26)