In the Village

Going to the Bakery

[Rio de Janeiro]

Instead of gazing at the sea
the way she does on other nights,
the moon looks down the Avenida
Copacabana at the sights,

new to her but ordinary.
She leans on the slack trolley wires.
Below, the tracks slither between
lines of head-to-tail parked cars.

(The tin hides have the iridescence
of dying, flaccid toy balloons.)
The tracks end in a puddle of mercury;
the wires, at the moon’s

magnetic instances, take off
to snarl in distant nebulae.
The bakery lights are dim. Beneath
our rationed electricity,

the round cakes look about to faint—
each turns up a glazed white eye.
The gooey tarts are red and sore.
Buy, buy, what shall I buy?

Now flour is adulterated
with cornmeal, the loaves of bread
lie like yellow-fever victims
laid out in a crowded ward.

The baker; sickly too, suggests
the “milk rolls,” since they still are warm
and made with milk, he says. They feel
like a baby on the arm.

Under the false-almond tree’s
leathery leaves, a childish puta
dances, feverish as an atom:
chá-cha, chá-cha, chá-cha…

In front of my apartment house
a black man sits in a black shade,
lifting his shirt to show a bandage
on his black, invisible side.

Fumes of cachaça knock me over,
like gas fumes from an auto-crash.
He speaks in perfect gibberish.
The bandage glares up, white and fresh.

I give him seven cents in my
terrific money, say “Good night”
from force of habit. Oh, mean habit!
Not one word more apt or bright?