for Ernesto Cardenal
Brother, a prayer, if you will,
in the encroaching dark for the lady of the night
who shares my meal of onion and tomatoes
and never finishes it, perhaps out of politeness,
though her stomach has shrunk
to the size of a walnut.
Tell me the right words to say to take away the pain
that demolishes self and leaves only longing?
In what century do we disparage a girl
for being poor while the baron and the banker
dine at the gala luncheon
with the business man and policy maker?
In what century do we praise the millionaire,
whilst the mother in exile,
only moments away begs for pennies
on the subway train with her daughter?
Ernesto, you who have always been of the people,
a kindness for the pole dancer
in your night rosary who lost her only son
and shares my lonely room in times of poverty.
You who have cared for so many,
a hope for the cam-girl who I courted every night
throughout April, seeking not a union of the body,
but a refuge from the weight of compassion.
A blessing, then, for all our sisters,
still innocent but much used,
born to servitude and self-doubt,
forced to endure the endless nights of the flesh
whilst the pimp and the thief make merry.
These are the travesties we live by –
old friend, a plea for all the poor,
before the night swallows us all in darkness.