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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 8 — Mel Belin

Barco Negro

—from a Portuguese song

She lay beside him on the sand,

worried about when he'd awaken

and see her in the first

stirrings of day: would he find her

plain, or worse?

Later, he'd left in a dark boat with a cross . . .

But oh, how she'd been wrong,

had half-laughed, cried that way he looked

at her, flush in morning's sun.

Let the old hags gossip: it's what people do

who have nothing

left. When they say he won't return,

she thinks, they're crazy.

And though the years that pass leave her

stooped, frail . . . she's ready, lies

back one night, eyes closed,

for that space, precious,

when God-willing, after an in-breath,

the barco negro slips up to the pier

for her, pauses . . .

and, before any out-, moves off,

sails billowing: a spectral glide

to the horizon—like a dip into sleep, gone!

Copyright © 2006 by Mel Belin.

Barco Negro was previously published by The Legal Studies Forum 2005 (West Virginia University).


He, she,

narcissus blooms and Bach in the room.

Moonlight through screen and blinds.

They coil and twine. Shadows

slash a fine net grid across limbs, an arching

back. Though his parents look

away, silent, he hears a wail

that cuts like a dagger, draws spouts

of blood, each others' over

the gentile. Her father murmurs,

O my daughter! between

the mumbled words of his prayer, miserere

and nobis. A nightmare

become tribal memory: archetypal

pogrom, crusade—looting,

burning, piercing by the sword

in places interchangeable

as their names, Speyer, Worms, Cologne . . .

She whispers, Now! urgently, legs upraised.

Their analysts hover with pen and pad

getting it all down.

Copyright © 2006 by Mel Belin.


You place your hand in mine

at this sound and light show in Uxmal,

and I wish I could carry you off . . .

as, we are told, the great dark Lord of Chichen‑Itza

did Princess Sac‑Nicté here on her wedding day

in the month of Moan. After war

and centuries, the Nunnery quadrangle is deserted now,

its reds, yellows, and blues gleaming

mysteriously on a limestone facade, Puuc‑style,

a mosaic of intertwined serpents with masks of Chac.

Suddenly, the Magician's Palace bursts

into light‑‑can't believe we climbed it today,

hanging to that chain from such a terrifying height.

And I forgive you‑‑excuse my presuming‑‑

everything, even your departure all‑too‑soon

for New York for a year or more.

If a dwarf could have built this palace

in a night, as the legend says, to win a wager

with the King and save his own life,

in the hours left all that you or I could have wanted

remains . . . Perhaps, a context had made

the yeses seem nos. You'd grit your teeth if I called

you, like Sac‑Nicté, a white flower, or dove

to make my woodland sigh. I wish I could carry you off . . .

Copyright © 2006 by Mel Belin.

Mayaland was previously published in Blue Unicorn in 2006.


Mel Belin's first book of poetry, Flesh That Was Chrysalis, was published by The Word Works, Inc., in September 1999. He was a winner of Potomac Review's third annual poetry competition, and a runner-up in an Antietam Review competition. He has read from his work on the Theme & Variations Program distributed by National Public Radio. A graduate of Dartmouth College, and George Washington University Law School, he is a retired lawyer, who currently resides in Arlington, Virginia.

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