“…and he shall rule over thee.” Genesis 3:16 (KJV)

These hotels around the plaza are base camp
for assaults on the celebrated ruins down the hill.
Predators loiter outside or prowl the fountain:
pickpockets, pimps, peddlers, cops on the make,
gumptious Casanovas preying on solitary women
with romantic illusions and money. It’s an industry.

I picked out this one the moment he came in.
Pepe’s girl drew him a beer, gratis.
A gringa, alone, not thirty, head down
at a high table, followed him with her eyes.
She wore a skimpy sundress in this cold climate,
sipped her pisco, nursed her endocrinal fantasies.

Máximo, we called him. His father is a senator.
Straight black hair slicked down,
tight mulatto skin defining his skull bones,
burgundy blazer, striped tie, pressed pants,
soft, efficient English with a lilt and a lisp.
He sidled with his beer to the gringa’s high table.

Pleethe? Sincere. Concerned. She nodded, stiffly.
He sat, folding his artists’ hands over his heart
(he painted madonnas and saints in the slow season).
Her bony yellow body, lank hair
and mesohippic face were no defense.
Looks mean nothing.

Máximo the betht guide. The city was dangerous,
especially for preety ‘merican woe-man.
He’d show her everything: famous ruins, museums.
Athk anybody. Everybody know Máximo.
She nodded again. Sure I watched. Don’t you watch
when they toss a mouse into the alligator pit?

An’ Máximo don’ wan’ money. Thrice,
in a half-hour, she gave him money for drinks.
Fi’ day and you don’ pay no-thing.
She tried to nod, spilled some drink.
Finally they left. She tottered, grabbed his elbow.
Only maybe leetle geeft at end, okay?


Weeks later I saw on CNN she’d disappeared:
sobbing family, reporters, disoriented American cops;
local riffraff arrested, roughed up, let go.
They asked Máximo their questions, politely. The Obispo
blessed his new painting, hung it the cathedral.
His father was a senator. I went to see.

A St. Sebastian, and he’d found the perfect model.
Bony boyish body, elongated face,
raised eyes exuding worshipful piety.
She died under the archers, classically serpentine,
blood flowing in every groove. A loincloth,
for Christian modesty, sagged from her angular hipbones.

A sinewy American girl, in Máximo’s hands,
transformed into the illustrious soldier-saint,
viewable only through the smoke of candles
lit by black-clad women, kneeling, praying,
some weeping. Her body (did I mention?)
hasn’t been found.

Miamisburg, Ohio, 2013