Tiffany Higgins

Lá / There

for Mario and Maria Nascimento

There, babes are held
In arms, on the pulse
Of the chest,
Not, as in the States, away
In the distant island of the stroller.
There, food is not fuel
But a chance of meeting—
Have you eaten?
A form of greeting.
There, on the walls of Belo
Horizonte, someone has covered
Whole buildings in script,
As if it were kindergarten paper,
Wide rule, and has made
His A’s with right tip
Flipping up, an arrow
To kick a mystic forro
On the flow
Of time. When you arrive,
Your airline ticket
Is not a card but a slip,
Liable to be ripped,
Ephemeral as this
Our life together,
And you suspect it is a sign
That everything is uncertain,
That life is not the solid
Edifice you thought you were
Building yourself to be—
Marketing your curriculum
It is improvised, we
Are just playing
This tune
By heart. There,
Life is not a profession,
It is an art.
There, the circle
Of the tribe—
The forest Indian reaching
For the tree’s high fruit,
Refusing to labor
In the fields of sugarcane—
The African in the dark
Of the gold mine
Objecting to the ugly glint,
Holding principles
Beneath the crust
Of chain-rubbed skin,
To escape
To create
A hidden village
In the mato,
A paradise of home in the scrub—
Here, the circle of
The tribe is not far off,
It still sways
In the day’s
Circadian rhythms,
The swing of time,
Sashay of aching.
Axé of making.
And the self
Is not a lone rock
Outcrop in the ocean,
But rather one crag
In a labyrinth
Of minerals,
Spines embedded
In this
Our pretty, dirty earth.
Here, the web
Of relations, invisible
Threads spinning—
Giving, receiving,
Receiving, giving,
Serving, attending—
Is still palpable,
As natural
As the foot that sweeps
Triangles in circles
To a samba beat.
I have saudades
For there, there
Where the ninety year old
Caipira man
Sits at sundown
Outside his garden
Looks and repeats,
A vida é boa”—
Life is good.
Life is sweet.