The Glory Has Left the Temple

for Gabriel García Márquez

To tell it, I must call it a dream.

A dream on the Caribbean coast of Colombia
where a beautiful black man serves
thick omelets messy with onions and mushrooms
to an assortment of mavericks—dock workers,
professors, maids, three police officers,
five whores, and a clutch of lawyers—at midnight,
sopping up the curdling rum in their bellies
with thick chunks of white doughy bread.

Antonio, the black chef in flowing linen,
has a hand jutting from his belly
to hold hot coals, and above his head
the interlocking, whirling wheels
with shifting eyes blinking back tears
but following our every movement. The earth
has grown weary with too much blood.

Everyone is counting the casualties
like the score of soccer matches.
I could call it a dream, a kind of
Márquezian apocalypse, the memoir
of a novelist being handed the reams
of paper on which he will prophesy
to the wind. Instead, I will admit
the truth: I have been sitting in a hot
room that smells rich with incense
and the sweat of priests who have lost
the language to comfort the bereaved—
priests whose idols have crumbled
to dust. I am listening to the wind,
to the voice in the wind telling me
to write it all down. So I do.

From Wheels. Copyright © 2011 by Kwame Dawes. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.