Medianoche en la Avenida de Niños Heroes
The car park attendant is leaning back, a toothpick in his mouth,
A Magnum ‘tache sketched on his lip, his soft eyes facing south;
With legs crossed at the ankle, and hair slicked back with grease,
He seems a fine example of tranquillity and ease.
But upon closer inspection, this airbrushed frame it fades
To a rendered face, the marks on which will make any man afraid.
For in the folds, the brow, the creeks, on chin and neck and nose and cheek,
Are coded pocks typed out in streaks: histories scoured into every crease.
His birthmark first – Chapter One – a port wine burst made by the thumb,
An old woman who pressed his neck too hard as he forced on out into the dark
That surrounded his mother’s straining heart, in a steaming slum of Managua.
The left cheekbone, once bold and strong, is now a shattered, knackered cone,
From the time he lost his hold and fell off a fence on the border near Cuyamel.
His dimpled chin – a mesh of grooves – made by knives and fists and hooves,
A gang he met while in Cancun who didn’t want foreigners working their dunes.
The criss-crossed lines that crowd his eyes, a thickened gauze of vagrant nights,
When new in town, only just arrived, he slept on buckled sidewalk tiles
Next to migrant friends who made him smile. And laugh. And cry.
One bagged eyelid’s involuntary twitch is thanks to the crickets and dogs and kids
Who scratch and bark and yelp and scream outside squatted walls where he tries to dream
Of buying a house with water and power,
Where two cracked buckets don’t make the shower,
And a bar of soap will finally erase the film of dust across his face.
Wildly twirls an eyebrow hair, like the dirty sheet he span in air,
Showing drivers where to park their cars for pesos slipped into his palm.
But that was then in days before this car park lot became his store –
A menial upgrade to wage and tips that’s not enough if your vision dips
Below periphery thick with mole-black hair, a forehead rutted, ruled with care
By lines that churn the plans and sums of how to send more money back to his mum.
Diamonds wet the concrete ramp, and as a car horn close by crows
The attendant rises to full height, a boxer coming off the ropes
And punching clear all hope and fear as the deluge it comes on,
For no trauma can get in the way when there’s work here to be done.
Bruno Diaz was born in Zurich and brought up in the north of England. He studied English at King’s College London and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. He writes short stories and poetry, and blogs about travel, culture and cocktails: medium.com/@brunodiazwriter.