Love in the Present Tense


y Spanish is limited to seven days of Spanish School in Antigua, Guatemala and my novio Mateo’s English, a lifetime of American movies, so, needless to say, we don’t talk very much. Which isn’t a bad thing. Like David Sedaris has said of being an Anglophone living in Paris, when you don’t speak the local language, you might as well assume that whenever anyone says anything to you its always something smart and interesting — advice, which, I have to say, lends itself well to a barely billingual romance.

I talk to Mateo as if he is a character in my Spanish primer (“You, your father is being a baker?”) and he does the same (“You, you are staying in Antigua long?”), both of us watching the other in awe whenever we run into friends who speak our respective native tongues. “Tell him this can never work until I at least learn another verb tense,” I tell his best friend Juan, who learned English on a high school trip to Amsterdam. But Mateo laughs off what I say before Juan can even translate and then looks me straight in the eyes to say, “Love is always a little bit more perfect when you only have the present tense.”

Strike Twice

I wish in secret I could write
a cryptic code of language cunning
which you would read and wonder
were the words dancing on the page
for you
or for another?

I am exposed,
for not a liar,
but too true
too many wild beats
unruly in a melody
from some strange land
that in my eardrum clangs
and doesn’t groove with
any steady 4:4 beating
of the human heart.

I wish I were inscrutable
so I could send a message
to the universe tonight
and it would settle in your brain
a song
that later trips to life
repeating in your head
my words and distant thunder
that surely rumbles
and surely promises
a steady rain
but also
the magnificence of crashing light.