This Error is the Sign of Love

Hotel with Birds

(Mexico.)

  • Across the courtyard from the balcony
  • the pigeons walk the red clay tile
  • of the hotel roof, a scramble of pipes
  • and chimneys, flower pots, extra tile,
  • discarded fluorescent lights....
  • The tiles are not fastened down.
  • The hot air rises through them,
  • the rain runs off. There is
  • a gutter where the pigeons sleep.
  • They land on the rim of the wooden water barrel
  • and bend over to drink, their tails
  • flipped up like hands raised in salutation.
  • They are a bird like us, with their persistent courting
  • and the song they mumble about the bushes of love.
  • I gave my heart away this winter. I had held it
  • in my fingers so long, heavy red clay muscle
  • waking me up tired in the morning.
  • How fine it is to have this circulation start
  • in another body, and come back! I am easy
  • on my feet, like a young girl dancing in her room,
  • like yesterday's sparrow that coasted through the door
  • swooped 'round our room, and left without grazing a wall.
  • Plain brown sparrows nest in the beams
  • over the balcony. They hop through
  • the bars of the parrot's cage
  • and drink his water, peck at his feed.
  • We saw black swans in the lake at the park
  • bobbing their heads for each other, cooing, their song
  • like a wind between their bodies, not a word to be heard
  • just some nonsense caught in the nodes of harmony
  • and sent out over the dirty water and the peanut shells.
  • Where did I get this phrase about the heart? I just
  • remember Reverend Francis in his woodshop, bored,
  • listening to the woman complain about her son who
  • "hasn't given his heart to Jesus" (and Francis
  • nodding, rocking in his chair, leaving her alone).
  • Last year I'd sit by myself and read
  • in the barrio church. At one of the side altars
  • an old black-and-white etching
  • of the Child with an armful of hearts,
  • holding one forward with his left hand.
  • Drops of blood. The small clipped photos
  • of children stuck around the image
  • in thanks or petition. Solemn faces,
  • the serious mood of a photographer's booth.
  • Outside, a courtyard and trees painted white
  • at the bottom. Birds and dust.
  • The tiles on the hotel roof are a porous, earthy red,
  • like flower pots. They are just laid there without
  • mortar and soak up the sunlight and the heat.
  • The pigeons move confidently, their wiry feet clicking
  • as they go. They stop and coo at anything their size,
  • then fly up and circle, a clapping of wings, an ovation.
  • She took my heart as lightly as one of her own breaths,
  • one of her laundry hums, simple--not that
  • acrylic green and bossy parrot yelling papá,
  • but the dun-colored birds at the peak of the roof
  • where the mud tiles fold over as if melted,
  • where the song carries--take my heart, my purr,
  • my ruffled blood--and the pigeons walk,
  • all shoulder and breast beneath the bobbing, servant head.