The Tower Journal

Scott Ruescher


For Nefertiti Negrón

Wandering the aisles of the spacious artesanía
At the foot of El Yunque, I came across an alcove hung
With pretty pastels by an “M. Negrón,” island landscapes
With pre-Columbian scenes that reminded me,
Even more intensely than this or that beautiful woman
In San Juan had reminded me, of your mother Marie
And the stories she told me in the warmth of the kitchen
In the apartment below me, in the dark winter
Of 1977, that year she lived alone with you,
Her brown-eyed, curly-haired, newborn baby,
On the ground floor of the brown triple decker with flaking white trim
On dead-end Glade Road, on the edge of Franklin Park,
In the Hispanic barrio of Jamaica Plain, in Boston.

There were pictures, predictably, of the tropical paradise
That the native Tainos inhabited before
The conquistadors’ arrival put an end to it all—
The wearing of loincloths, the fishing with spears, the building
Of uncomplicated huts with thatched palm roofs
And quadrangular boats that were good enough already—
Including one of a little girl sitting in the fine sand
By a translucent pool that the receding tide had left for her,
A spiraling pink conch pressed to her left ear, her index finger
Plugging her right. There was a tranquil nighttime interior
Of a woman nursing her child by light of a cook fire
That cast her shape in flickering shadow on the thatched wall,
And a depiction of a young man hunting with bow and arrow
In a mangrove swamp. Six or seven pictures framed
For the walls of someone’s room at the end of a narrow hall.

And they were stories, mainly, of her immigrant family—
Your mother’s, I mean—of moving with your grandparents
To Brooklyn in the 50s, the parents and several kids fleeing
From the pointless poverty of the Caribbean island paradise
In search of a share of the mainland prosperity
In the post-war United States, and taking advantage,
Like thousands of other families, of the same
Inexpensive air travel that got me to Puerto Rico,
Within a few short years making New York more populous
With puertoriqueños than the island itself, entire blocks
Of the Bronx and East Harlem, the Lower East Side
And parts of Brooklyn, filling with the smell of mofongos
And pastelillos, the windows of bodegas ripe with them
And with panas and cocos, and the summer sidewalks
Of the barrios hopping with Caribbean rhythms,
Plena, merengue, and salsa tunes, and with the explosive sounds
Of teenagers straight from a scene in West Side Story.

In none of M. Negrón’s pastels did Spanish soldiers take
Women from their huts by force, men to be burnt at the stake
For not understanding the virtues of Christianity,
Or children to the school to be taught the grim meaning
Of a vanity that had never quite occurred to them
As a sin to be forgiven for. No one was ashamed of nudity.
No one was wearing shin guards, a metal helmet, and chain-mail
Or using a steel sword just to hack a coconut down
From the lowest limb of a palm. I didn’t see a single friar
In a long brown robe and a beard from some El Greco painting
Wandering alone, in a meditative trance, in a monastery courtyard
With his rosary, his Bible, and the braided cords he used
To flagellate himself. And no one, guilty before accused,
Was tied to a palm tree and flayed until his brown skin
Peeled off in ribbons like the skin of a ripe plantain.

I picture your mother as she is in that photograph
Of the two of you in the grass at the Arnold Arboretum
On a walk that summer. Her head of black hair is pushed
Up and back from her forehead, the windpipe prominent
In the cylinder of her taut brown throat, her mouth
With its bright red lipstick open in the raucous laugh
That I can still hear from here, nearly forty years later,
As you crawled toward the camera in the green green grass.
That’s the same laugh that shook the walls of her kitchen too
After she’d nursed you and was swaying you in her arms, revealing
Her big beautiful teeth and the uproar of the rebellious soul
Of someone who’d retained the spirit of the New York streets
Even up here in understated Boston, never failing
To rise to the occasion that someone with a sense of humor
Might have presented her with—as I like to think I did
Whenever I had the chance to sit with her in that kitchen
Talking over steaming ceramic cups of ginger tea
About diapers, Eastern religion, your missing father, money,
Brown rice, Puerto Rico, and the history of American poetry.

On the way down from the cloud-enshrouded peak
Of rainforested El Yunque, passing turn-offs for valley vistas
And scenic waterfalls, I told my friend Saúl all about you—
How, after finding no evidence of a living Marie Negrón
In a search of the Internet, it had occurred to me, given
How few Nefertitis there would probably be in the world,
To look for you instead; how quickly I’d found you there
Among all the pages about the exotic Egyptian queen
For whom Marie named you; and how pleased I was
To learn how glad you were to hear from a perfect stranger
Who’d not only known your mother way back then
But, even better, who actually babysat you sometimes
In your apartment downstairs, holding you in his arms
With the knowledge that you would never know your own father
And making all the coo-coo sounds you make to get
A baby to smile, rocking you through the gurgling and wiggling
In the warmth of the kitchen on dead-end Glade Road
In the Hispanic barrio of Jamaica Plain, in Boston,
Before your restless mother got sick of the dark winter
And loaded you into the car, a beautiful brown bundle
In a soft white shirt and diapers, and took you to the other coast,
Away from Massachusetts to the state of California
And the city of fallen angels that she’s buried in now,
That you said you were calling from when I picked up the phone.



First Annual Fourth of July Anti-Imperialist Picnic

I was riding home on my bike from the big community garden
With a basket full of lettuce. I’d already passed the part
Of Soldiers Field Park where the wet sound of children
Splashes even the colors of the wading pool around, waves
Of aquamarine mixed with sprays of algae green.
With my fists on the handlebars, I had ridden through crowds
Of picnicking Latin Americans, Asians, West Indians,
Middle Easterners, Africans, and Eastern Europeans
Who come to the park on holidays and weekends
To get away from the heat of the crowded apartments
That they can barely afford to rent in the enclaves, boroughs,
Streetcar suburbs, and stoned slums of Boston,
Particularly those in nearby Allston and Brighton—
People on the run from all the nations of the world
That have broken into factions, suffered great famines,
Or endured natural disasters in the past twenty years;
Families from El Salvador, Liberia, Brazil, and Sri Lanka,
Syria, Cambodia, Guyana, and Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Bosnia, Nigeria, and Puerto Rico.
And I was turning my head this way and that, in appreciation
Of the patriotic implications—so many new Americans!—
When I did a kind of double take at a cool and quiet
Apparition, something off to my left between the path and the river
Haunting the jovial mood of the hot, cacophonous day.

Three slender women of color and relaxed but regal bearing
Were standing in the shade of a Norway maple grove
With a quiet you’d expect from classical Greek statuary,
Their arms crossed at their breasts, their dark eyes intent
On something that I couldn’t even see when I turned to look
In the direction of their gaze. Oval faces burnished
And polished like bronze masks, as if recently refinished
Or replaced altogether by some sculptural surgeon,
With a gravity reminiscent of The Burghers of Calais,
They betrayed no expression of real or feigned emotion.
Nothing in their composure suggested much distress.
(If something tragic had happened, you never would have guessed.)
Their elegant heads with glazed-ceramic features draped
In light silk shawls, their sari-like wrap-around dresses
So long they looked as though they’d been sewn to the ground
In subdued but rich colors muted by the gloom,
They evinced no weariness, unease, or other symptom
Of the common malady known as alienation.
No apparent conversation was going on among them.
Apart for the moment from their husbands preparing the picnic
At that table by the river, they seemed unworried about their children
Playing Frisbee in the sun, and stood there in a trance
With that otherworld serenity that I think must have come
From living in the desert along the African equator,
Not in Morocco, nor in Algeria, not in Mali, the Sudan, or Libya,
But in the northeastern horn of Africa, I guessed, Somalia
To be specific—on the coast of the Indian Ocean
Bordering Kenya on the south and Ethiopia on the west,
A country long troubled by post-colonial civil war.

I suppressed the impulse to stop and stare and wave my hands
In the barbecued air, to see if I could get a blink out of them,
A grin, a rise, a nod, or a wink, some sort of recognition
That the naïve American farmer, the frat boy, the dealer,
Or the small-town businessman on summer vacation
In a third-world nation would hope for when he and the boys
Have strayed from friends and family in the comfort of the resort
For a little local adventure and find themselves thinking
Of the locals as the foreigners. I was more afraid
Of patronizing than of frightening them. But I was making
Some educated conjectures about them, based on the headlines
I gloss in the newspapers in the morning before work,
Guessing from a mere glimpse that they’d been living in the States
For maybe just a year, that they hoped their stay in Boston
Would not last long, that they would live as refugees only
Until things back home in Somalia have finally settled down,
Until their lives of relative comfort in the capital, Mogadishu,
Like those of nomadic hardship among the wandering herds
That the tribes tend in the desert, are determined to be safe,
The government more stable that up until now
Has rarely been able to maintain order, to keep society civil.
And I was wondering how aware they were that their presence,
Communally quiet on this day of crude independence,
Was in contrast to the brasher and less refined manners
Of other women relaxing in the wake of their own diasporas,
Like those women I saw to my left who were laughing out loud
In halter tops and cut-offs on blankets with their kids,
Wiping the grease and barbecue sauce from their glistening faces
With paper napkins, turning up the radio, and standing
In the grass along the edges of the picnic blanket to dance
When their favorite song from the old country came on at last.

I was gone from them by then. I’d passed them with a start
That I’m sure they didn’t notice in their heat-induced trance
And was pedaling faster, picking up speed on the bike path home,
Taking it all in in the magical little nano-second it takes
To assess a situation, when I saw another group
That summed it all up in a separate glance, in a sense.

It was a conspicuous group of another kind, of a dozen
Or fifteen people, in an open grassy area between
The volleyball court and the open-air theater
Faced in the direction of the Somali women
And giving their attention to a guy with a gray ponytail,
Their leader or spokesman, I guess, who was calling on them—
Exhorting might be the word—to disregard once and for all
The borders between countries that were drawn on a wall
By the appointed chair of the strategic planning committee
In a coalition of quasi-fascist commercial totalitarians,
Wall Street bankers and Madison Avenue merchants,
Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, and Goldman Sachs investors,
At a board meeting in a bunker beneath the World Trade Center
In cahoots with right-wing Washington politicians,
The CIA, and four-star generals with offices at Halliburton.
They looked to be a bunch of harmlessly scruffy radicals
From one of those old neo-Trotskyite or Maoist groups,
The Spartacus League or Mobilization for Survival,
Who still meet in Cambridge and don’t mind being part
Of a choir that is preached to, bent with good will on getting us all
To work toward that inevitable day, predicted by Marx
In his materialist interpretation of Hegel’s dialectics,
When all workers everywhere, perhaps as soon as the next
Generation, including those celebrating the Fourth of July
With a picnic in this park, divided by language barriers
But united by a zealous common faith in socialism,
Will storm the gates of the castle and seize power at last—
Aging anarchists from BU and Brandeis, long hair bound
By bandannas and berets, sentimental political idealists
With an appreciation for the multicultural like mine,
Gathered on the bank of the regulated Charles River
In a theoretical celebration of countercultural love
Under a banner the bold red color of the People’s Republic
That announced in white letters, in large white block letters,
Flanked, if I recall, not by a hammer and a sickle
But by a peace sign that’s been likened to the footprint of a chicken,
That this was their first annual Anti-Imperialist Picnic,
As if imperialism itself, on the part not just of the Americans
But of the Brits, the French, the Portuguese, the Dutch,
And the Spanish as well, wasn’t largely responsible,
In a circuitous way, for the great array of people
Who had gathered in the park on the Fourth of July.

Then it hit me. Then it occurred to me like the bolt of lightning
That wasn’t going to strike here on a sunny if humid day
That this was what the three women standing in the shade
Of the Norway maple grove in their native guntiinos and shashes
Had been staring into the distance at. That these harmless folks,
These hippy freak weirdoes, these commie pinko faggots,
These anti-American eggheads who’d been fossilized by the 60s
And still believed, in spite of all the contradictory evidence,
In the power of love to bring peace on earth, were the only
People in the park that the three entranced Somali women
Just simply could not, for the live of them, make heads or tails of.





Tunnel Rat


1


It wasn’t as though his infamous flights for midnight snacks
Were anything like the wartime reconnaissance missions
That his younger peers in their green fatigues were flying
In Super Sabres, Voodoos, Delta Daggers, and B-52s
At roughly the same time, daylight strafing time,
Over the humid delta villages, secret mountain hamlets,
And camouflaged bases of the Vietcong in the 60s.
But as I cupped my face to the window on the pilot’s side
Of Elvis’s private plane, on a patch of grassy lawn
Across the street from the filigree gate of Graceland
On the one day I’d set aside for a visit to the mansion,
Closed on Mondays and holidays, that he’d built on a knoll
With a few of the many dollars he’d made in the music industry,
I couldn’t help but think of those of pilots, said to account
For the majority of the American casualties in the war.
Cocky young guys from all over the country,
From Texas, Massachusetts, Washington, and Florida,
Who’d graduated with honors from the ROTC
On campuses aflame with daily protests against the war
Dying in fixed-wing fighter planes shot down by ground fire
From anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles,
And fighter interceptors funded by expansionist Soviet spending.
Lieutenant Colonel Harold J. Alwan, for example,
My sister’s husband’s late uncle, a career Marine
From a Lebanese-American family in Peoria, Illinois,
With 32 years and an engineering degree
From Notre Dame behind him, missing in action
Since February of ’67, when, for all his sister Shirley,
His nephew Pete, and his wife and four daughters knew,
His Skyhawk fighter plane went down on a test flight
In flames off the coast in the ocean near Da Nang.


2

Grunts from small towns, grunts from slums and suburbs,
Were all getting drafted and dying by the dozens,
Blown up on jungle paths set with land mines and booby-traps,
Shot down in choppers when they tried to leave the scene
With the badly maimed bodies and the disfigured corpses
Of other people’s brothers, other people’s sons,
Or knocked over backwards over sandbags into trenches
At bunkers in the mountains, picked off by snipers,
Ambushed in rice paddies, bayoneted from behind
By surprise in torched villages by teenagers in pajamas,
Even snuffed out in their sleep in the safety of the barracks.


3

The Vietcong soldier who headed off from his village
In the mountains of the north near the Ho Chi Minh Trail
With the comrades he’d studied and worked with to fight
For his country’s right of self-determination, unaware
That he’d be killed within the week by an American grenade.

But not the lucky comrade who was crouched behind him
On patrol, whom he inadvertently saved from dying.

The young defender of the colonial government
Who stepped on a mine on a path in his rice paddy
When he was out planting. But not his younger brother,
Who escaped to the States on one of those choppers
That left the roof of the embassy in April of ‘75
After the fall of Saigon made it Ho Chi Minh City
And who to this day serves “authentic Vietnamese cuisine,”
Scallion pancakes, shrimp crepes, bun, goi, pho, and fish stew
In a hole-in-the-wall café, in the Dorchester district of Boston.

Men and women fighting in respective opposition
To the revolution that Ho Chi Minh was leading
Under the auspices of a Soviet-supported communism
Or to the western imperialism, first from the French
And now from the Americans, that threatened to prevent
The Vietnamese from ever running their own nation.

But not quite yet the young girl who ran right toward us,
Napalmed and naked, with open arms screaming
Up the sun-baked road in the prize-winning photograph.


4

When the cockpit failed to yield any evidence
Of the rock star’s existence, no guitar-shaped ashtray
On the console, say, no picture of his wife Priscilla
Embossed in the leather of the complicated dashboard,
No keopard-skin seats, purple shag carpeting, or decal image
Of himself on stage in a sequined jumpsuit of gold lamé,
I put away my regard for the memory of Elvis
And thought instead of Bruce Bennett, Harmon Ellis,
And Cornelius Khan, men I’ve had in my English classes
In a Massachusetts prison, locked up for crimes,
It could be argued, that they had learned to commit
On patrol in the infantry after being drafted into the Army,
That blue-collar version of the junior year abroad,
If not in the war zones of the poorest streets in Boston;
Of the happy-go-lucky maintenance men at work
Who keep the lights on and the toilets all flushing
In the brick buildings and ivory towers of the great university;
Of my dad’s younger buddies at the factory back in Columbus
Who used to take him fishing in storms on Lake Erie
And tell him all their war stories; of my friend John Kratoville—
How his brother got busted for sending home from Nam
Some of the best marijuana that his adventurous mom
Would ever hope to smoke; and of Joe Bubonivich
And Bob Hughes, the only ones from my hometown
To die in battle in Vietnam, according to the memorial
At the base of the flagpole in front of the high school.


5

I should feel more merciful and think kinder thoughts
Of Ronnie and Randy Earle, the uninhibited brothers
Of my good friend Robin, one an enlisted Marine
And the other a Green Beret, who, home on leave
From tours of Nam, and bored out of their minds
When the adrenalin drip stopped, beat the living shit out of Robin
In the living room of their ranch house on Eastwood Ave.
In Westerville, with utter impunity, with brotherly cruelty,
And with no fear of reprisal, their father only a year or two before
Having risen from his wife’s side in the middle of the night
To put the barrel of his 35-caliber deer-hunting rifle
Into his mouth at the workshop bench out in the garage,
Abandoning them all against his better judgment.

And I could probably be a little more critical, actually,
Of Uncle Ho himself, with the long, Confucian beard
Abstracted in that painting on one of the three gas tanks
That Corita Kent, the anti-war activist pop-artist nun,
Painted beside the expressway near the Kennedy Library
And UMass-Boston—Ho Chi Minh himself, radicalized
By studies under Marxists in Paris in the 20s
And turned on for good to the anti-colonial movement back home
After working as a baker at the Parker House in Boston
(Still the destination of many a ruthless and unapologetic
Running dog of capitalism) several incidental years
Before Malcolm X, a resident of the run-down
Roxbury section of Boston, but not yet an ex-con
Who’d done time for theft at the Charles Street Jail
Or the state prison in Norfolk, and not quite yet
A revolutionary in his own right, worked there as a busboy.

And I would be wise to suspend judgment of Elvis
Until I myself can claim to live in a state of innocence,
Thereby breaking the very spell that had put me in it.

It was the same small plane, after all, I realized drawing
My face from the glass, that the King of Rock ‘n Roll,
Years after his Army service in Germany in the 50s
And the superstar hey-days that are depicted in velvet
Portraits sold by private vendors in gas-station lots,
Summoning his staff of disbelieving assistants
In the middle of the night, supposedly flew in search
Of fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches on white
That I guess he thought could finally set things right.


6

In the instant it took to see that there was nothing
Of interest in the cockpit of Elvis’s plane, I thought
Of my own experience of that war as well, canvassing
For McGovern, arguing with too much condescension
For their tacit support of American imperialism
With my proletarian Republican parents, listening
To the Quakers break their silence at discussions in college
At vegetarian suppers in atmospheric Athens
In the Appalachian foothills of Southeastern Ohio,
And drawing a lottery number of one hundred and thirty
In that letter I received, in 1971, in the dormitory mail
From the federal draft board—exempting me from the job
Of tunnel rat that, given my diminutive stature
And relative agility, they just might have invited me
To volunteer for, which might in turn have required me
To snuff those goddamned Charlies in their black pajamas
The fuck out of hiding, man,
crawling on my belly with a pistol
Head-first through the dark toward some complex system
Of ammo closets, officers’ quarters, and bunk rooms
Where the guerrillas lay in wait with bayonets, knives,
And instruments of torture for assholes like me.





Looking for Lorca

La muerte me está mirando
desde las torres de Córdoba.


1

I wasn’t necessarily looking in earnest
For Federico García Lorca, the martyred Spanish poet
Of the lost civil war, or ever really expecting
To see his apparition, wherever we traveled
In Spain that summer. But I found him there anyway,
Lingering with his duende in the most likely places.

In Madrid, for example, I didn’t think I’d find him
Working at night with the composer De Falla,
The filmmaker Buñuel, and the painter Dalí
On the upcoming issue of the surrealist review
Gallino, in a café between Puerta de Sol
And Plaza Mayor, looking in rapt admiration
At the triumphant Velasquez painting of Bacchus
Cavorting like a borracho with his working-class heroes
In that gallery at the Prado, or eyeing the grocery boys,
As he does in that poem by the late Allen Ginsberg,
In a mercado near the church where Goya painted
A revolving fresco of the hapless masses
Witnessing the miracles of San Antonio
de la Florida in the dome and the intimate grottoes.

But there he was—his apparition—in all three places.


2

In the hot and dry Alpuharra heights
Of Pitres, Andalucía, we saw Lorca one afternoon
Improvising flamenco on guitar and vocals
In the lobby of the posada we stayed in downtown,
Snapping his fingers, stomping, and clapping in time
With gypsies at dusk beneath a spreading castaño tree
On the plaza that evening, and wandering alone
In a nearby village of honeycombed limestone
That we hiked to on a path through dry olive
And almond groves, through sheep and goat pastures
And back-yard huertas, in a reverie in the morning.

And in his hometown of Granada, we saw him lamenting
The Inquisition at the tomb of its sponsors, Ferdinand
And Isabella, trying on pajamas and slippers
At a Moroccan clothing stall on a steep street we took
To look at the Alhambra from the top of Albaicín,
And eating ice cream on a bench on the street
When we went out for tapas and sangria that night.

And then at the Alhambra itself, there he was again,
Among the polished columns and complex mosaics
In the ornate ruins where Washington Irving had lived,
During the Orientalist phase of western art history
When the place was being discovered by artists and writers
Hoping to inhale the alchemy of the architecture,
To drink from the fountains in the elaborate gardens,
And to be turned, forthwith, into blissed-out sultans—
There, there he was again, the poet and playwright
After bathing in the fountain of the Court of Lions,
Sitting on his haunches reading from his romances
With some homeless gitanos in the doorway of a mosque,
Less homely than in the photographs, with smoldering eyes
And gravity in his gaze, regarding me as a lightweight
From under the overhang of his heavy black eyebrows
When I tripped through the doorway and scuffed the tiled floor.


3

After that I expected to sense his presence
Wherever I turned, even in the park they’d made
Of the family farm at the edge of Granada
That prospered from fruit and from a demand for its cattle
On the fertile desert plain known as la vega
When Lorca was just a child—a setting he salvaged
In the two desperate dramas that I loved reading—
Bodas de Sangre and La Casa de Bernarda Alba
On my return, lying on the couch with a dictionary handy.
.
But it was in his birthplace, Fuente Vaqueros,
Just a few miles by bus from downtown Granada,
Translated literally as Cowboy Fountain, that I felt his presence
Stronger than ever, in the grainy black and white pictures
Of the biographical documentary movie we watched
Of Lorca with friends from the traveling theater troupe
Doing arts education in the pueblos for the people
During that very brief practice of democracy in Spain
That had come to an end by the time of his execution.

And in the hand-me-down stories they told us at the bar,
That family we met after the film at the house,
Juan and María and their patient son Pablo, on vacation
From Sevilla, over cervezas at a table in the corner—
Maria’s tale of her uncle, for instance, hiding for months
In the root cellar of a barn on a family friend’s farm,
And Juan’s of all the people in his unionist family
Losing their jobs to fascists and practically starving—
Reminding us of the glory days before the Falangistas
Overthrew the Loyalists; before Franco, backed
By the dictates of the authoritarian church,
Began his reign of austere terror; and before Lorca himself
Was lugged by soldiers from the Guardia Civil
And shot, in 1938, with fellow subversives,
A teacher or two, a matador, an actor, and a few guerrillas.
.
Thanks to them I felt the strongest surge of identity
With Lorca in Córdova one blistering afternoon
When I should have been at siesta like everyone else.


4

I’d crossed the Guadalquivir in search of the swimming pool
Where the casually gorgeous hotel hostess said
I could do my laps—twice, in fact, on a long bridge
That shortcuts across an oxbow bend in the river
So that you don’t have to take the long circuitous way
From the quarter where Maimonedes and his Jewish brethren
And the Arab philosopher Averroes lived
In the late-medieval twelfth century, back when God
Was everyone’s answer to the final question
That everyone was so determined to pose correctly.

I’d crossed it twice, that wide brown ditch of opaque water,
And had penetrated the closest thing I’d seen,
In two weeks of exploring Madrid and Andalucia,
To a washed-out urban American ghetto, a neighborhood
Of bleak public housing projects and unkempt parks.

I had paid at the taquilla and was looking for a locker
That would accept my three euros of exact change
When a crowd of adventurous children discovered me there,
Un extranjero, a foreigner, probably a German
Or British traveler, surrounding me and screaming
And peppering me with questions while their wary mothers
Eyed me suspiciously from their blankets in the grass
Even when I wished them buenas tardes on my way to do laps,
And even later as well, when I had had my daily exercise
Swimming back and forth to the amazement of the locals
In the crowded pool, dodging groups of dunkers and divers,
Waders and floaters, cuddlers and flippers, and was on my way out,
With the children at my heels again peppering me with questions.
.
And now I was crossing it twice again, the Guadalquivir,
On the same two bridges, back toward the Mezquita,
That mosque on the bank near the Jewish Quarter
That the Inquisitors had conveniently built a cathedral
Literally inside of, co-opting the elaborate,
Fountain-frothing gardens for their after-dinner strolls
That, according to the plaques, inspired the plans
For such modest adventures as Columbus’s voyage
To a world that was “new,” as least to the Europeans.


5

La muerte me está mirando
desde las torres de Córdoba,


Wrote Lorca in one of his romanceros gitanos,
Those gypsy ballads that applied the form of the Symbolists
To the cryptic imagery of the Surrealists.

And for all I know, yes, death was watching me too
From the towers of Córdoba, not regarding me lovingly
For the way I walked, but looking down the barrel
Of a deer-hunter’s rifle through a telescopic lens
Or training the cross-haired target of a full-bore musket
Like one the conquistadors won Mesoamerica with
At the back of my head, as she had at the Maya
Of Guatemala, the Inca of Peru, and the Azteca
Of Mexico, even though I did my best not to look
American, and wasn’t really in the vaguest way dressed
As if for the Fourth of July, in red, white and blue.




Copyright © 2014 Scott Ruescher


Scott RuescherScott Ruescher's poems have appeared in recent issues of Poetry Quarterly, the Harvard Educational Review, the Naugatuck River Review, In My Bed, and the Short North Gazette. His poem "Looking for Lorca," published in this issue of Tower Journal, won the 2013 Erika Mumford Prize from the New England Poetry Club. Earlier this year Agni Online published his poem “Anthem” –and then followed that with an interview about the poem in its newsletter. He administrates the Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and teaches English in the Boston University Prison Education Program.

The Tower Journal
Fall/Winter 2014