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 Sol, Notre Dame Review, Raleigh Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and New England Review. He lives in Austin, Texas.