Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
By Martín Espada
for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local l00, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center
Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook's yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.
Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana,
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy's music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.
Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.
After the thunder wilder than thunder,
after the shudder deep in the glass of the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in Fajardo,
like a cook's soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God's beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.
Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan and Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.
It was quite hot in Maryland today, so much so that Baltimore closed its public schools early and the University of Maryland warned students that if they didn't use less AC and fewer computers, they might have a blackout. So I stayed indoors till nearly dusk working on various projects, none of which got completely finished but all of which moved forward. It was so hot that I did not see a single bunny, though I saw a deer and fawn in the woods.
Adam came home from a cross country meet and worked on his college applications -- all the state schools have rolling admission, so the earlier the forms are received, the earlier he will be considered. He says he is frustrated because when you play Runescape, you can do your quests one at a time, so you can do Retaking The S.A.T. and THEN do Applying To College, plus put both quests on hold so you can Fill Out Honor Society Forms.
After dinner we started to watch the Orioles game, which appeared to be going pretty well, but as has happened too many times this month to recall, the bullpen collapsed and the Yankees won. Fortunately we missed this because we were watching Broadchurch which is much more horrifying and depressing though really well acted -- Colman, Tennant, and Whittaker in particular. A few last photos from the festival in Boonsboro last weekend:
Happy Birthday dementordelta! *smooch*