Organizing old files recently, I came across this fragment, written long ago in the form of a poem, with many cross outs and corrections.


Fifteen years ago I saw him

El Viejo, in a plaza in Guanajuato

bent like wheat broken by strong wind

glazed eyes to the ground

attending each dragging step forward

around the Jardin and around

again past my bench, left arm

clenching a large wooden box

pressing frail hips to the right.

I must go

but still I stay to watch

the parchment hands

the face like a dirt gully

after a hard rain

skin clinging to bone

ribs caved into organs.

Why is he shuffling still and

what does he carry and

what is he thinking and

what does he see?

If I were an artist I would paint him

If I were a photographer I would take a photo

But I have only words and I write him

in my notebook to carry home.

Long after the notebook is lost he stays.

I build him a cabin in green foothills

give him a lonely boy to befriend

who finds him dead one winter day and

learned from that a lesson

this selfish boy who played

with Christmas toys when he could

have visited El Viejo.

You only used me the old man nagged.

No wonder it didn’t sell.

You never knew me.

I didn’t care. I’d wasted

enough time on him.

I worked on commercial things but

he kept butting in until

I put him back in the cabin

and visited often

There it ends, as though there might be more pages. The truth is that El Viejo haunted me until years later, just recently, I published Amigos: A Novella on Amazon Kindle.


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