the tenth muse works retail
for Juana Inés de la Cruz
“Mexico City Journal; The Poet's
Medallion: A Case of Finders Keepers?”
— The New York Times, Dec. 15, 1995
Juana swears she bodied/unbodied back in 1695,
but i see her each weekend at the supermercado:
slouched beside the clock and digging pitahaya
flesh out with her fingers, eyes made of antilight.
while my mother makes rounds for goya milk
and flour, i watch Juana watch the minute hand
tick down to lunchtime, kick open the break
room door to the click and sigh of part-timers
lighting their cigarettes. who took my necklace?
she asks the room, pointing to her chest. blink.
blink. sandwich smoke. and i see through the window
a flock of birds unspool their wingspans—fly
away, like i swear i didn’t take it, [man name] took
it, no i saw [man name two] in the break room
yesterday near your stuff while [man name three]
stood watch outside the door. in the final draft
of this poem, i walk Juana to the bus stop,
and she tells me she is done with retail. done
with doorless rooms and clorox smell and men
with mouths but no faces. done with shin splints
and smoking habits. still, she clutches her paycheck
tight, like mary grieving in the pietà. behind us, sunset
burns the asphalt alive. before us, there is nothing but sky
and what we’ve lost to time. slowly, her bus rolls up.