El Niño 1997

by Gerard Grealish

          “No se puede vivir sin amar, were the words on the house.”
— Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

Out of the almost endlessly parched
earth of northern Chile, yellows,
reds, blues.

Wildflowers not seen for decades
arise.  Arriba in the Atacama.
Sin flores, no se puede amar.
Sin amor, no se puede vivir.

A homeless man must be
drunk again.  No es posible, he mutters and
as if he were right, reports
of rodents rampaging, of rat crap floating in zephyrs
resonate over the air waves
as if the lungs of local residents
were screaming mantras, were shrieking “Hanta !

Hanta !  Hanta !  Hantavirus
you are killing us.”  Sin muerte,
no se puede vivir.  In Acapulco,
the little children haunt the streets
out of thirst.  Agua, agua, por favor.

Sin agua, no se puede vivir.

El niño, strange child,
your warm breath dries up the riviera

dampens the desert, drops snow
where snow seldom falls and drought
where metal rusts as a matter of course.

Then there are flowers.

Whose child are you anyway?
I can almost hear you
crying out “No sé !  No sé !”
Oh, so beautifully.