Silenus saw her first
amidst a swarm of Swedish blondes dispersing
in the street to find another place to dance
They parted from her like flies from a torch
She carried a woven basket filled with stuffed bread
straight from the oven
She smiled with her eyes
with her lips too
but her eyes smiled most abundantly

We weren’t hungry, and thought it
dangerous to get too close
but it was just what was dangerous that kept us there
I said we can marry her
live in a cabin in the mountains
she can cook
you can grow dope
and I’ll chop wood

We deliberated for some time
They’re never alone, girls selling food from baskets
always a boy lurking
likely a baby drowned in blankets
in another basket on the curb
but she was not tired or worn
maybe just a girl selling bread stuffed with cheese and tomato
by herself

A guy walked up to her with a few crumpled bills in his hand
Is that her man?
No, I said, if it were he wouldn’t be giving her money
she’d be giving him money
he’s just buying something
her smile is just friendliness
her beatific smile offered to all because she knows no hate or fear
I mean look at him, we laughed
he’s a crackhead

Should we buy a pan relleno and propose?
Yeah
We stood there eating, bread still warm, even though
spread across the bottom of a basket in the cool night air
I asked her name, and then for her to repeat it
It sounded like Banano or Vananu or Bananu
She lived on the west side, just outside the city
near my own fair Ramos
I offered her wine from our plastic cup
she said no
I asked if she was alone
she said no
I’m with a boy
across the street
I had to ask for her number, arrange to
meet her in the west
but then he was there beside her
the crackhead

She didn’t have hair like the manure-caked hay
of the girl on the train
face stretched and desperate
emptied of even the shadow of a grin
when she raised her head from between her knees
and the smear of glue on a plastic bag
sweatpants sagging and soiled
as she trudged alone into the station
hundred foot high ceiling dizzying her
lights from the schedule board glaring down

No, Banunu smiled
she always smiled
triple smiled,
each eye half-closing as flesh rippled around the openings of her face
She smiled like a grandma, like your
best friend’s girlfriend
like the nicest hooker you’ve ever met
laughing with a soundless laugh

Not twitching, head lunging, gazing in fear
with unblinking eyes
like the gangly boy looming over her

I’d said earlier we should have adopted her
the glue girl
taken her from the train tunnels
cleaned her
turned her off of glue and onto whiskey
She was pretty in a way
deep inside that sagging soiled face
Glue-sniffers are usually children
and usually dead or into something else
by that age
She was damn near twenty

Still standing close by, but behind them
Bananu told her crackhead that we’re from Ramos
He didn’t care
He wouldn’t leave, so we left
Headed back for the train
Finishing the last draughts of wine
over a few empty blocks and I realized we’d went north and east instead
of south and west
pausing on the corner, cursing
as something passed
glanced back
and there was Banunu and the crackhead
walking where we had come from.
We laughed under a tree
until they were a half block away and Silenus
yelled
Hey!
Te Amo!
Hey!
Hey!
They stopped, the crackhead gesticulating
If he wanted violence he would get it
but he was giving us directions to a club
We didn’t want to go to a club

Incredulous but not surprised
neither by the chance encounter nor
the depravity of life
we walked west, then south
found the station
the last train of the night now five minutes into the darkness
Banunu and the crackhead walked by
and stared down the tracks