The Hermit

Xochiquetzal Candelaria

                                  for s.b.

Over several years, I learned the language
of his papers, how parallel little piles meant he was still
considering love at the level of the article:

a kiss, the kiss,

how correspondence with a friend long dead
still sat under a rock he had found
as a boy,

a bus ticket from Barcelona to Madrid
paper clipped to a hand drawn map

with only one word looped in
delicate cursive above
a red triangle marking a volcano.

Pasted on sea-glass and hung from the ceiling

were the names of composers and county hospital patients.

When read aloud, they sounded good together.

I spent evenings here
lifting slip after slip.

Once I found a series of numbers: musical notes (I think)
the harmonic beats of the beaten

and forgotten,

a collection of eights arranged like petals
spiraling out to form
the perimeter of what looked like the ruins of our city.

Xochiquetzal Candelaria was raised in San Juan Bautista, California and holds degrees from UC Berkeley and New York University. Her work has appeared in The Nation, New England Review, Seneca Review and other magazines. Her book, Empire, published by University of Arizona Press, was described as a brilliant debut.  She is a recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry and has received awards and grants from  UC Berkeley, New York University, Vermont Studio Center, Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Hall Farm Center for the Arts, The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and the LEF Foundation. Her poetry has been anthologized, most recently in Other Musics: New Latina Poetry (2019). She is a tenured faculty member at City College of San Francisco.