In a city that now floats in a bottle, In a dimension outside of the census, within walls that were unregistered, there was a painter, Who performed his roll like the Taino cave etchers, the pyramid illustrators of Mexico, the scribblers of hieroglyphs. Vigo painted the hallways of the tenements, While through the air he flew upon a white horse, Or smoked hashish for his desert camel through Moroccan tubes. He painted rocks which were heavy art. Loose bricks were found by landlords containing Antillean pictographs. An artisan of the streets, whose smooth knowledge of many angles Made more lines visible through the old face of the barrio. Against colorful bodega windows, bright candy stores, the epoch of the pachanga Deep in the clubs of night under the world In the submetropolis of need, against walls merely holding up. Once we spoke of the art of survival, of loose lions and hungry tigers, He painted lizard instincts along imaginary river bamboo, Frozen eye sockets containing tar and northern ice. We recognized how we were packed in the chance of numbers, ciphers in the wintry spread, noses popping out of sardine cans, We spoke against the doo-wop of The Paragons Meet the Jesters Till dawn brought a blue light upon roofs—the city skyline bricks steel edges jagged in the wind. In a conference of the stoops he maintained that Dulces Labios Mayaguez was his origin, he spoke of sweet mangoes, plena pulp, Touching trees in honor of the Tainos of his hands stationed deep in his bark, with his left hand where a tattooed cherry blossomed. Vigo made a collaboration between survival and creativity, He stored objects that came with the wind, Had a cellar full of broken gadgets portions that could insert into any malfunction, A bazaar in search of a dictionary of shapes and proportion. He brushed himself like freezer ice Halka brilliantine shine, never alone always with a prehistoric beast. As evidence that I was there on this other planet I still maintain a rock which he painted against the laws of gravity Now a paperweight grounding the poetry of the tropics Against the flight of the east trade winds.
From The Mountain in the Sea by Victor Hernández Cruz. Copyright © 2006 by Victor Hernández Cruz. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher.