Delitas(n., Spanish) crimes.

Escuela Superior Mecánica de la Armada,
Buenos Aires, August 8, 2018.


i.

Hard to resist the word’s resemblance
to “delights,” but knowing it can’t be,
I look it up after reading it over
and over on plaques stationed here
and there in this naval base turned
detention center. Bare except for the faces
stenciled across walls, blurbs about
terror, death flights, bodies
washing up in the Rio de la Plata.

In the one building we enter,
portraits of the Plaza del Mayo mothers
order the hallway, birthdates embroidered
into their white scarves. They present
children’s photos in a mute show and tell.

We emerge to sky’s canopy, a hint of rain,
gaze up at monk parakeets in hoop pines;
their nests, cylindrical baskets like something
we might buy in a tourist market.

You tell me you didn’t know I was taking you
here after the art museum, didn’t know,
after lunch of pulpo and salad. I say I told you.
You don’t listen. And we almost fight,
but then go outside the gates to sit
on a curb and cry.

 

ii.

Your father, grandparents; your Uncle Paul,
a baby, forever at that window in Vienna, watching
them parade into 1938. What was called Anschluss,
a joining or Blumenkriegthe war of the flowers.

Later in Seattle, your grandmother
naming her parakeet Franz Josef
because, she said, he was always so good to us. 

 

iii.

Headed for San Telmo searching out tango,
our cab driver drums the wheel and sings
to 80s hits: “Ring My Bell” and “How Will I Know,”
“Superfreak” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
We pass statue after statue of men
on horses, men dressed for war.
Figures look one way, words another.

You practice reading in Spanish,
joke about names of restaurants:
Kentucky Pizza and Louisiana Fried Chicken
next to The Center for the Deported—
What irony! you tell me. I say, No—
El Centro del Deportivos
is just a sports arena.

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LEA GRAHAM is the author of the poetry collections, From the Hotel Vernon (Salmon Press, 2019) and Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You (No Tell Books, 2011), along with four chapbooks: Murmurations ( forthcoming, Hot Tomato Press/Minnesota Center for Book Arts, 2020), Spell to Spell (above/ground Press, 2018), This End of the World: Notes to Robert Kroetsch (Apt. 9 Press, 2016) and Calendar Girls (above/ground Press, 2006). She is an associate professor of English at Marist College.

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