Poem: “Tires Stacked in the Hallways of Civilization”

Yes, Your Honor, there are rodents,
said the landlord to the judge,
but I let the tenant
have a cat. Besides,
he stacks his tires
in the hallway.

The tenant confessed
in stuttering English:
Yes, Your Honor,
I am from El Salvador,
and I put my tires
in the hallway.

The judge puffed up
his robes
like a black bird
shaking off rain:
Tires out of the hallway!
You don’t live in a jungle
anymore. This
is a civilized country.

So the defendant was ordered
to remove his tires
from the hallways of civilization,
and allowed to keep the cat.

Martin Espada has published almost 20 books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.



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