Esteban Rodriguez: Ciudad
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In the old city, the sidewalks bear

the prologue of December’s burden:

sludge and snow lay clumped

against upturned garbage bins,

flaccid sandbags, cathedrals of rotting

cardboard, abandoned shopping carts

filled with suitcases and mattresses.

You pass a pair of mannequins

dressed in trench coats and gas masks.

You pass another, then another,

then notice that the farther you lumber

around every street corner – conceding

to nightfall’s subtle shift in reason,

perception – the more the mannequins

clutter into groups, follow your trail,

stare without truly staring as you begin

searching for something you think

you once hid in the city: a trinket,

a postcard coded with doodles

and hieroglyphics, a whisper you stuffed

in a shoebox, expecting those soft syllables

to grow into a narrative, or a fable,

or a story within a story that draws

the protagonist to the middle of an alley,

where he – part-citizen, part-part-time

investigator – stumbles upon a chalk outline,

and, aware of the obstacles and adversaries

behind him, lies down and contorts his limbs

to fit within the lines of that drawing,

wondering if the moon, peeking above

the polluted buildings, will find his body

as sufficient evidence. 

Esteban Rodriguez holds an MFA from the University of Texas-Pan American. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Puerto del SolNotre Dame ReviewRaleigh ReviewHayden's Ferry Review, and New England Review. He lives in Austin, Texas.