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Ecuador Diaries: Cirque de Parque

Even on a sunny day the clouds

Are Quito’s gray ceiling

Whether polluted or intemperate,

Woven yet broken like so much

Of the city’s public property, the park

Is puddled in leaking sunlight;

In one sun puddle stands

The performer at the bottom

Of a grassy pit, the fringes lined

With laborers cum spectators, smiles

On their faces, huddled arm by

Arm as if in jovial, uttered prayer

While the sunny performer smiles

Back, turns his back on some, speaks

To others; all laugh at him even

The sun and I show no mercy;

Yet my smile is the smoke from

A prank shop cigarette — a joke

On me who cannot understand.

My smile is as real as the white paint

Plastered to his face, as the red lipstick

He applies while gazing into a pocket

Mirror at his own smile or the smiles

Behind him; before me, a real woman,

“Naranjas! Sandias! Refrescos!”

She shouts in practiced meter

That’s poetic: my smile is as real

As the caricatured mask of El Presidente

He straps to his skull (somewhere

Underneath his face still breathes),

Doing impersonations, yet the joy

I feel is genuine, she shouts on high

“Naranjas! Sandias! Refrescos!”

The performer is on his knees

At the bottom of the volcano; on the edge

I walk away from the sun

Before coins and applause rain down.

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