The Moon Shatters on Alabama Avenue
A wooden box rattled
with coins for the family,
on a stoop where the roots
of a brown bloodstain grew.
Brooklyn, 1966: Agropino Bonillo was his name,
a neighbor, the yellow leaflet said,
a kitchen worker who walked home
under the scaffolding of trains at night,
hurrying past streetlamps with dark eyes.
He was there when the boys surrounded him,
quick with shouts and pushing,
addiction's hunger in a circle.
When he had no money,
the kicking began.
The mourners clustered at the storefront,
then marched between cadaverous buildings
down Alabama Avenue,
as the night turned blue with rain
in a heavy sky of elevated track.
The first candles struggled, smothered wet;
onlookers leaned warily as they watched.
A community of faces gathered and murmured
in the dim circles of light,
kept alive by cupped hands.
In the asphalt street shined black from rain
and windows where no one was seen
hesitant candles appeared, a pale blur started
on the second floor, another trembling glimmer
slipped to the back of the march, then more,
multiplied into a constellation
spreading over the sidewalk,
a swarm of candles that throbbed descending
tenement steps in the no longer absolute dark,
as if the moon had shattered
and dropped in burning white pieces
on the night.
His name was Agropino Bonillo,
every sixty dollar week
he was bent in the kitchen,
who could not dress for winter
and brawled against welfare taunts
at the schoolyard,
the unlit night
that the sweep of legs was stopped
by his belly and his head.
And the grief of thousands illuminated city blocks,
moving with the tired feet of the poor:
candles a reminder of the wakes too many and too soon,
the frustrated prayers and pleading with saints,
in memoriam for generations of sacrificed blood
warm as the wax sticking to their fingers,
and years of broken streetlamps, bowed
with dark eyes, where addiction's hunger waits nervously.
Over the wooden box, a woman's face
was slick in a drizzle of tears.
Her hand dropped coins like seed.
from Trumpets from the Islands of Their Eviction