Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas
(after Graciela Iturbide’s 1979 photograph)
My warm morning skin bristles
in the jungle hut’s frigid shower
as shrill chirps trill
off my inner ear’s high-hat.
What tropical bird lurks
outside this screen-less window?
I imagine lime green wings,
a feathered turquoise face,
but when its squeak rattles
into a hiss that creeps
behind me like a shadow, I turn
to stare straight into the onyx
eye of an iguana, iridescent
crown gleaming down
on my miserable wet head, tail
coiling the shower pole, tongue reach-
ing for my splashed shoulder.
I slink back, leave dirt in the bends
of elbows and knees, relinquish
a chance to feel eyes licked
into the back of my head. I am not
la Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas
donning her Zapotec headdress
of protruding limbs about to leap,
folded faces, triple chins. Not
Iturbide’s pebble squint refusing to blink
as it latches onto the queen of Juchitán
so far away, yet so near to where I stand
dripping on this poured concrete floor.
Copyright © 2020 by Brenda Cárdenas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 7, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.