(CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)

Gigantic engines revving and roaring
to life, again, again and again
until everything is lost.

Over and out, the island flattened.

Where Arawaks once watched the mountain
muscling hurricanes off to the right
or left, two massive gashes
appear on a cliff:
                                         Irma and then Maria.

Yucca, malanga, and yautia grew
close to the ground. The rice
tended by slaves of another century
equally indestructible.

Irma, Maria, Maria.

Forget about color, the artist advises,
start out as a spacemaker
on a flat thing with four corners.

FEMA inspectors canvas the neighborhoods
all day, o.k., o.k., hole up in a hedge
fund manager’s hotel at night.

Blue patches sprout on the missing roofs.

Swamped by reporters on a boulevard littered
with signs, the Governor blames
the Army Corps engineers for equipment
somewhere at sea, steers clear

of the mayor who hands bottled water
to student protestors and dances the Bomba
with Ricky Martin.

                                                      The great periplum
rotates past doctors and nurses
testing borrowed walkie talkies—64 dead
or is it 3,000?—past tech-pharma companies
decked out with diesel generators,
the only farms still cultivated since
King Sugar was deposed.

                                                              Back in El Yunque,
the workers clearing rainforest wreckage
from an upper road see clear
to the ocean over downed trees, to a bay
glowing with ancient messages.

Somebody claims to have found Maria’s
dislocated breast in the museum
at Ponce: it is nursing baby
Jesus in a seventeenth century painting.

Over and out, o.k., o.k.

David Skeel is a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Puerto Rico oversight board.

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Published in the March 2022 issue: View Contents
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