Inspired by a ride I had with a Lyft driver who immigrated from Portugal, but was actually born in Goa. And yes, I spoke Portuguese with him. And yes. It was amazing
I get so few opportunities to flex my Portuguese in Chicago...
In an overcast curtain, he reveals himself
a man of modest dreams and magic memories.
He unveils his library of books, spoken in Urdu,
in Persian tongues set aflame in the folds of his brain,
fruiting characters like fractal origami, unfolding.
He savors the script like a chef scrapes a syrup
‘cross a white slate, scared not of the country
willing to crash plates to make broken statements.
It is in these books that he knows when to leave.
Fly past the fires,
through the gates,
into the angels he once read in his Inferno.
Let them guide him past the lapping mountains,
through tufted islands,
into star-eyed restaurants and laundered maps.
He resides in a hole in the wall, tessellated
into the dip-dives Lisboa provides with long sighs,
with smells carried on salt-serpents and sirens
whispering at his countertop: “Come on.”
He is reading tradewinds in dictatorships, in
Thus sayeth the Men Behind the Blinding Curtains,
else he is wrapped in satin fortunes spent by
despots, snapped tight around his neck.
There were boas in Goa; constrictors in Portugal,
nooses in this library lingering out his door while
sea-serpents still slither in his ear: “Eventually.”
Valises leashed in the dark. Visas in hand.
Vistas in the distance, dreamed like fiery scripts.
All he has to do is find an opening.
Even if he leaves with nothing, there is still
the library, the natural wonder of the world.
Under lock and key. Only reapers can pick it.
He picks the plane. He pries open the skies.
past arctic guards,
through thunder drums,
into the loving unknown.
Let them guide him past Portuguese,
into America Uber All is Well.
And he drives, winds the city like a cell,
breathing oxygen into a dragon-town.
In the Camry he owns, he is order in chaos.
He is intersection and green lights, ideas
flowing like the firebranded books he once
singed in his meninges like God unto stone.
Only he speaks to me in that lyric so long ago.
He waxes half a world of wonders I never knew
existed in this gridlocked city. He is pacific,
despite never seeing Rings of Fire or trenches,
just visions of Vesuvius devouring Pompeii.
He is the lightbulb that clicks, connected with an app
that spins wheels of death on screens, but stories
that spool missing universes if one simply
checks out one of his books from the local library.
Past the river,
through the light,
into oncoming traffic.
Let him guide you past the trucks,
through the exit,
into the open bookstore,
where you arrive,
dropping your carriage
in awe of the library that delivered you.