An old man pulls the wrinkles of his dark face back.
I’m badder than you,
he tells me, handing me my change
for the rooster. My black & white
speckled rooster: My amulet,
like a necklace of herbs, I never told my mother about.
This market of rooms like those in a hive
or in one’s head. Black bodies mark these walls,
& walk away into an amber countryside.
Then, a dark sun.
My father’s black face he hated, the cobalt suit
he always wore, hanging here, in one of these rooms.
There is a woman and her baby;
a knee bobbing up & down.
Buy a potion for luck, an elixir for love, she asks.
My father had a baby, a boy
whose name I learned in a letter
tucked in a book on Papa’s shelf.
A faceless doll releases a bird-
one thousand pin pricks on the ear.
My mother was a saint who never said a word.
There are women plaiting hair
who only hear the way
hair sizzles and burns to seal the braids. Above,
wind-chimes with full skirts & tiny brass legs
never stop ringing.
There was a time I believed
my family was dead
because I slipped that letter right back in its hiding place.
The saints in Mama-Juana bottles.
It gives the rum a good kick.
An amber countryside
stretches across my eyes.
Then a baby falls to the ground. A Mosaic
of broken beaks & limbs at my feet & footsteps
never stop invading. Everyone needs a rooster.
They know how to keep the hens in line
Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi’s work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review; Bellevue Literary Review; Cold Mountain Review; Nimrod; Poet Lore; Puerto de Sol; The Caribbean Writer; Wasafiri; and Witness. Recently, her poetry manuscript Love Letter to an Afterlife, was a finalist in the 2016 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition. Currently, she is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Comparative Literature Program at the University of Maryland.
“At Home in the Modelo Market” originally appeared in Kweli Journal in August 2010.