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09-20-08

Eugene Gloria

Saint Joe
-after James Wright


When the choppers churned and swayed
the swift brown current like a field of cogon grasses,
we dropped a rope below,

but the native girl, no older than my daughter,
was too weak to hold on, and let go.
We had to leave her to refuel, though we knew

what the river would do. When my duty was up,
I chose to come here, for humid sheets over bamboo beds,
for some honey in a slip--

a ninety-pound rice cooker named Ronda
and the soap dance she's known to do. But hardly for love,
as I wait with this man bent in my arms.

When the Coca Cola truck hit this pedicab driver
you could see his rubber slippers fly
all the way up the second-floor window.

His body thrown five meters from his cab.
I imagine the Lord Jesus descending from his cross,
a good marine saving the dead in limbo

But on this god-forgotten street a crowd gathers,
crows peck and gawk, and name me, "Joe."
Their faces tell a separate story, each one

ending with the sweet by and by like the girl
whose hands slipped at the end of my rope
dancing above the fury of a bloated river.

A man in a suit sloughs off, whistles for a cab,
a flotilla of rubber slippers converge on a two-inch lake of rain
A pair of white hands, mine, reach for his limp body.

And from the swollen streets, an ambulance calls,
draws closer, louder. And I hold on,
listen to children chant "Joe" in the rain.

 

-from Drivers at the Short-Time Motel

BIO: Eugene Gloria earned his BA from San Francisco State University, his MA from Miami University of Ohio, and his MFA from the University of Oregon. He is the author of two books of poems -- Hoodlum Birds (Penguin, 2006) and Drivers at the Short-Time Motel (Penguin, 2000), which was selected for the 1999 National Poetry Series and the 2001 Asian American Literary Award. He has also received a Fulbright Research Grant, a grant from the San Francisco Art Commission, a Poetry Society of America award, and a Pushcart Prize. His interests include contemporary American poetry and Asian American literature. At DePauw, he teaches creative writing (poetry), College Writing, Asian American Writers, and Senior Seminar in Writing. He holds the Richard W. Peck Chair in Creative Writing for 2006-2008.