Street Performer, Mexico City
Marveling bystanders applaud his burning
Star, its vertices eight wheeling torches,
A brass hoop he faces the sky to hold
Up with his clenched chin, an adversary
Of gravity, the odds, and just plain sense.
Bare-chested, he boasts a statue’s torso,
The festive skirt of an Aztec sun worshipper.
These tourists of his torrid zone have come
Far south, grope for coins and context, the cosmogony
Of their own experience, mimes unicycling in a park,
A subway cellist sawing off debts, her velvet
Case starry with quarters. The crowd believes him
Here just for show, quaint diversion, a little fun
And profit from useless talent. They’re ravenous
For spectacle, sacrifice to the primitive gods
Of pride and failure, can’t see the hours
Of practice that make the trick possible,
His whole life an act of trembling balance,
Of sweaty breathing and keeping the tender
Jaw rigid. There’s nothing so solitary,
Though his young wife would have assisted,
Selling penny candy from a bag instead
Of sleeping in their dim niche of an apartment.
But she’s ponderous, about to hatch
A little more risk. He’s juggling children
Already and they sear him whenever he gets
Near them, even in his thoughts. The words
He uses flare about him, how this is much
Better than Sinola with its fields, its shootouts,
Though she prays for curtains, a working stove.
He’s like Nanahuatzin the sacred and willing
Legend who leapt into the inferno
And became brilliance in the final age.
He doesn’t want sympathy, just the living green
Ash of Yankee dollars, and he’s tried everything,
Burnishing windshields at stoplights with spit
And paper, guiding drivers parking cars into
A minute of his world. But there’s no playing
With fire, the real draw, or so he wants
Them to think, purveyor of the perfect
Stunt or just another shoddy miracle.