No Loitering Allowed

At eight in the morning, the elevator is a silent battle ring.
There is no victory, only a bullet in the form of luck
that we use to shoot at barely a spot inside a box.
It will lead to another, with corners still to be fought for.
A purpose is all that a contender needs to qualify,
but if the weight of your empty stomach causes it
to overload, find another one to push off the ground.

Careful is not the word for it—calculated, maybe.
Not out of practice, only habit. The former feels
too willing, so we go with the latter. The habit
of tangoing near the curb to avoid the edge
of rainbow-patterned parasols and the smoke
that wants to play patintero with every passerby.

If someone only saw the joke you can easily make
about the mayor who gets driven in a car to work,
driving off street vendors from the side of the street,
we wouldn’t be arguing this much on Facebook.
We were locked at home for so long that we forgot
how we once danced with each other on a sidewalk,
with our different hungers and similar paths back home.

The window seat of a UV express raises a voyeur
among the innocents. An apocalypse of highways
plays on the movie screen from a north-bound view.
All the gore of elbows and knuckles are theatrics
of the present from the past fifteen seconds ago,
before the lock clicked and sealed everyone’s fate.
Enjoy the show. Tomorrow’s plot might be different.

People stand outside, in front of a row of skyscrapers.
Their eyes find an excuse to flutter shut at the sight
of signs that tell them they can’t stay. It’s easy
when the wind blows harder in this block
than anywhere else, and the smokey apparitions
made out of oil, gas, and coal can hide bodies.

Nobody knows who, but a man made a rule
that a spot in the city is earned before it is chosen.
It will call you to occupy a role, never a place.
And if you try to look for it beyond the curfew,
he will put you in a dog cage at the side of the road.

But on dirty staircases of closed laundry shops
and abandoned banks, littered are traces
of ashes from cigarettes and the burnt outs
who leave them behind. A reminder
of a space well owned into the night,
like warm metal railings sticky with handprints,
sinking planters and slanted lamp posts.

What these marks spell out is a song,
and to touch what others have touched
in this city is enough to hear the whispers it sings,
vibrating beneath the ground we all walk in.
The masseur hums it as she closes the salon,
and a man who delivers mineral water
puts it down to nod along to the melody that says
a city unmade for its people underestimates them,
because function is a gift from the flesh.