On Guadalupe Street

                In search of the shrine of The Black Madonna,
                San Antonio, Texas

I search for the Black Madonna
hidden on the westside.
Someone says it is on the eastside.
I don’t go there, too late
to see the cistern turn
into a globe of fire.
What remains of the statue
is swallowed by a shaking arm—
the train to the other side of town.

I search for the long-haired, tattooed man
with no shirt, strumming his acoustic guitar,
trying to get out of the way of the needles,
empty beer bottles, homeboys slowly
approaching the sound of his heart.
I look for the Black Madonna and want it
to rise in some dark alley where
pigeon shit and drunkard vomit mark
the way, used condoms contemplating
their colors to match humidity in the air.

I want to see the smooth black marble of the saint,
its stone face frozen in a grip around
my legs that must keep moving,
the cold monument brittle
in the history of vision,
hard in the sweat of mist,
a tale of searching men found
in her folded, draped arms.


In the cow pens, there is a frozen heart.
In the music of back rooms, a window.
In the wooden box of the artist,
a mother and father pounding each other,
his bare back glistening with the tattoo
of a blue Virgin, moles and scars vibrating
with the sin of what is holy and indifferent
to the pain of living rooms, the glow
of black and white television outlining his love
for naked women, branded bodies, the arms
of his wife lifting to answer him.

In the sweat of her forehead, an image of a thorn,
a time to sing quietly outside the open window.
In the deposited honey behind my ears,
an itch of a small boy not knowing these lovers
came on the torn sofa, came again
and whispered something he didn’t understand.


I touch rumors of a black breathing,
feel the wires on fences, see empty shrines
in watered gardens, containers of candles
and dried flowers dissolving into
the affliction of angels who disappeared when
this neighborhood was chosen as the site,
the sculptured well where mothers believed
their fasting would end, their suffering
continue, masked men in their beds turning
to love them in silence, love them in shame.

When I approach the hidden well,
grafitti glows on the doors,
pulls doorknobs and melts glass in my hands.
I find an old car engine humming in the garage,
tire of searching for the altar and fold
hankerchiefs in that garage all night.
When I want to lay asphalt
on a dirt street to the Madonna,
I run out of black cloth and quietly
leave my country instead.