El mascarón. ¡Mirad el mascarón!
      ¡Cómo escupe veneno de bosque
      por le angustia imperfecta de Nueva York!

            "Dance of Death," December 1929
Lorca ferries to the island in the East River,
the Isle of the Mad, to teach writing
to the crazies, the damned who, unlike him,
have lacked the witchery to remain at large.
These are not students of English at Columbia:
they do not prowl by night, seeking men
at the West End or in Riverside Park.
These are the ones sin defensos
who weep too easily, bay the moon, mount
each other like jackals. And Federico,
trapped by night in his side-street room,
reads their poems: hears them
compose in the commode, solfege in the shower,
moan their pæans of praise
when their fetters are removed.

He endures the first week, burns
his lesson plans. On the second
he brings to class papier-maché and clay,
sculpting knives, paints and crayons.
"These," he whispers "you will make your poems,
mold smiles to be your faces."
From behind the mask that he can make,
a hopeless psycho builds his father's banker face,
another sings his parents' dreams,
new words to Glück's "Che faro senza Eurydice,"
sings in a bloodweeping voice that indeed
could ferry the dead from out of Hell
of what he has lost and found.

Federico, it's said, is a thaumaturge:
his madmen one by one develop smiles,
strut in sane stateliness before their keepers,
see, they say, not stars in the river,
not deities with butterfly flapping wings,
but the passing Bronx-bound barges filled with shit
for another housing project landfill.
A nurse wants to canonize him, wrap
her cunt around him like a crown,
but Federico merely smiles, demurs,
his secrecy cool, aloof, rejecting
without offering pain.

The loonies fan into the city, merge
with the faces on the sidewalk.
Walker Evans photographs the praises of unfamous men,
catches them with his hidden camera,
new cold faces of the businesslike, the sane,
trapped in the canyon-manacles of Wall Street,
bound by their silent hate.
Federico, in late October, attends their graduation:
watches them fete the start not of their depressions
but of the Century's, drifting languidly
from upper-story windows,
silk-clad butterflies.