[Readings] | Madrid, New Mexico, by Kenneth Irby | Harper's Magazine

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Madrid, New Mexico


By Kenneth Irby (1936–2015), whose collected poems, The Intent On, was published by North Atlantic Books in 2009.

Why write at all? The card dated 1953
is in my notebook, where I don’t want
to ever forget it

or what people are
that are gone, names, never come
to see, I never met

Carmelita Vallejo     Sept. 8, ’53
Born      Madrid, N.M.     Father     Frank Vallejo
Born     Zacatecas, Mex.

Address of father or guardian
        in Socorro hospital
Occupation of father or guardian
        used to be a miner

This is all as if it almost never was,
the town
empty, the school the late afternoon
broken in and no window left,
and the books the records
thrown there in the dirt
in circles

Carmelita Vallejo, Carlos Peña
mi peña almost it all is

o human structures that fall apart
all the blood left is these objects
as if there were never anything more than these,
these cards, the old marked-in books,
property of the State
of New Mexico

the Miner’s Safety bandage 40″ cravat
box, still smelling of disinfectant

I am invading, going into their privacy
wandering the few rooms, the girls’ and boys’
taking my photographs
so that the light will
not ever be

As if I could trap the
significances myself —

Why write at all. In this time
as in any time, the great subjects
only in the mind
to overcome the ruins of these
Madrid High Schools deserted
are everywhere
and wonder where the people are
we want to meet.

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