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Watching the Mayan Women

I hang the window inside out
       like a shirt drying in a breeze
and the arms that are missing come to me
       Yes, it's a song, one I don't quite comprehend
although I do understand the laundry.
       White ash and rain water, a method
my aunt taught me, but I'll never know
       how she learned it in Brooklyn. Her mind
has gone to seed, blown by a stroke,
       and that dandelion puff called memory
has flown far from her eyes. Some things remain.
       Procedures. Methods. If you burn
a fire all day, feeding it snapped
       branches and newspapers—
the faces pressed against the print
       fading into flames-you end up
with a barrel of white ash. If
       you take that same barrel and fill it
with rain, let it sit for a day,
       you will have water
that can bring brightness to anything.
       If you take that water,
and in it soak your husband's shirts,
       he'll pause at dawn when he puts one on,
its softness like a haunting afterthought.
       And if he works all day in the selva,
he'll divine his way home
       in shirtsleeves aglow with torchlight.

—Luisa Villani

from Hayden's Ferry Review, Issue 26, Spring / Summer 2000
Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Copyright 2000 by Luisa Villani.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Arizona State University from Hayden's Ferry Review, Issue 26, Spring / Summer 2000. Copyright 2000 by Luisa Villani. For further permissions information, contact Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, (480) 965-9011,

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Luisa Villani (1964- ) is a poet and novelist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in several magazines, including The New England Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and The Hiram Poetry Review.

Learn more about Luisa Villani at Famous Poets and Poems.