Huatulco Poems

Of Ice and Men

My students search for a man for me,
they tell me his name is Roberto
and he wears a jaunty cap.

They tell me when they see him–
“Hey profa, today we saw Roberto,
he was at the beach, he was looking for you,”

“why didn’t you come
to La Papaya, Roberto was there,
he looked lonely without you.”

Today, when I sing “Here Comes the Sun,”
the song a gift from an old flint
that never did manage to catch,

tears come into my eyes
in class, my young students,
some of them so poor they can’t afford food, singing

about ice that’s slowly melting,
sun, sun, sun, here it comes.
Their faces brimming

in light from the projector,
new moons wet with lunar water.
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Sunday Love Poem

The church is my beach,
I shall not want
for coral reefs and turtle eggs
and wanderers’ dirty feet,
for gleam of half-shells
on the strand,
or offered up with oysters,
half-interested cries
of peanut sellers
and shell-bead hawkers, under arcs
of hawks and swoops
of gulls and graceful dives
of pelican mouths.

My sacrament
the ices shut tight
in a steel tray, my vestment
the dresses all sizes
already frayed,
beautifully hand-made
but yellowed in the sun, draped
on the frail brown hanger
of a woman’s arm.

The moon is a haunted house.
Beneath us, crabs are burrowing.
Their prayers
bubbling up, iridescent,
to burst open.

El Oso Maloso

In the morning my tears are a thin film
making the light swim over everything.
In a maze of alleys behind the beach
I meet a thin man with his thin dog. He shows me

a garden of passion fruit and spiky green
things and gives me fruit water
with fresh pulp and wrings my hand and kisses my cheek
and looks at me frankly and speaks to me like a friend.

His dogs butts up against me, leans his head
into my side. One of his eyes is dead, sealed nearly shut
by a thin crust. He was a puppy, the man tells me.
Someone rubbed mud in his eye.

The man gives a comical shrug.
Who knows why anyone does something like that.
Who knows, hmm, little bear?
My big bad bear. Teddy bear.

Ay, Mujer

Again, the old story.

Girl meets former
narcotraficante, girl listens
with sympathy,
girls receives anonymous
mescal, alcoholic hat tips from the men in the bar.

Girl, self-destructive,
is luminous, girl is at her most
numinous in her gray evening dress
and her big doll eyes
preselected for the evening,
in her night-shine
skin of white glass.

This time, it’s dawn,
and a small dead lighthouse.

This time, she confines her ears
to the cries of birds,
shrinks herself to a pinprick
point of sky, minor key
in the greater scheme of day:

horns from the bahías sounding
as baleful cruise ships
mourn their passing, and fishermen
down the beach are casting,
and fish splash, and birds feed,
and listening hard
she hears the night leave
in all the small alarms of the dark
caught by surprise in the rays
of the day’s first count.

Too Busy to Notice the Spring

Too busy to notice the spring
Paper flowers emerging
From green silk leaves

A slick unyielding
Goblet of water
Under the palm branch

Too busy to notice the trellis climb to life
No longer desperately clinging
To old fence posts

The invisible rustle of little animals
In the bush, a mushroom thick
As five foam plates

Grown sideways like a plate
Out of a tree, along the brick walk
Up to the office,

And it’s sad that’s the best
Way to relate
Its thickness, the best reference to make

To understand its strange stiffness
And dry rubbery quality
Yet also like a sponge

And what it feels like
To touch it, try and bend it,
But it is.

The world and us are mutually
Oblivious; our frenzied
Inattention

Is of little consequence
To the flowers
Except for the breeze of our passing.

Orange and soul

Twin soul, other half of the orange, mate,
Part of a pair, what does it mean?
Twin soul, how do you know me?

The people who argue about fate
And chance and practical romance, perhaps having never seen
A twin soul, other half of the orange, mate,

The schemers and dreamers who calculate
Lists of attributes aren’t really asking
Twin soul, how do you know me?

How do you recognize me? When hate
So readily obscures life’s constellations, the gleam,
Twin soul, of your orange fire, your urge to mate,

That you emit, your constant state
Until the moment I meet you of being
One twin soul to me, whoever I am and whoever you are

And whatever my half in our orange, mate.
Tell me how do you know me?

Naranja y alma

¿Alma gemela, media naranja, pareja
Parte de una pareja, que significa?
¿Alma gemela, cómo me conoces?

Las personas que discuten sobre el destino
El chance y el romance práctico, los que quizás nunca han visto
Una alma gemela, media naranja, pareja,

Los maquinadores y soñadores que calculan
Listas de características realmente no preguntan
¿Alma gemela, cómo me conoces?

¿Cómo me reconoces? Cuando el odio
Fácilmente oculta las constelaciones de la vida, la chispa,
Alma gemela, de tu fuego naranja, tu deseo de encontrar pareja,

Que emites, tu estado constante
Hasta el momento en que te conozco de ser
Uno de mis almas gemelas, quien sea yo y quien seas tu

Y lo que sea mi parte en nuestra naranja, pareja.
¿Dime cómo me conoces?

Oaxaca to Minnesota, January 2016
For my friend Lori, and for my future grandchildren, whether they come true or not

Naked as a newborn babe
Purse empty as my soul is full
I come crawling back…

And such a writerly thing to do:
To be (gasp!) in my early thirties
And still nothing to show for it,

Having spent my money
Bumming around the beach
Writing the story of our lives.

Their lives. Your life. My life.
In black-and-white I will take a picture
Of myself in your apartment,

Cigarette behind my ear
Biting an ink-stained tongue,
Bent over the page in concentration.

Some iconic photo
To make people believe, years from now,
If only my own grandchildren

(Who if one day I have them
Will be the most extraordinary thing
I’ve ever done), some remembrance:

From the sun-drenched beach
To the frozen lakes, at the start
Of the year with nothing left

But the wild dream
Of a last chance, before that chance
Has passed, before age begins

To make me grasp
With fear at the things that comfort me
I come back.

Huatulco, 2013

I came here to heal from the wounds of war.
And if my wounds are not the right kind of sanctioned,
well, all the better that I chose them.

Let’s pretend all the soldiers don’t choose.
Let’s pretend it’s not chosen for them.
There is a certain caché to martyrdom—

not one I’ll find much use for in this beautiful small town.
I came here to escape all entanglements,
as I did the time before, and the time before that.

Each time adding layer upon layer
of human beings I couldn’t resist.
Here there is a sea, at least. How many fish.

Gray Day at La Entrega

For Eloina, mi hermanita, on the eve of her first heartbreak

On a rare gray day we go to the beach.
Birds whirl in trees, so dense
Their wings are leaves, their feet are branches.
The sky, furrowed round, drops down,
Onto ocean the color of volcanic glass.

It is the beach where you once jokingly asked
Why good men are one in a million, good women
Three out of four, you surmised,
If not more, but today
You talk about everything
You did wrong, as if you’ve forgotten.

It is the beach, too,
Where I fell against my better judgment,
Headlong into a young boy
Who buried his head in my lap
And passionately pledged

His dreams, which were all he had.

I dreamed of our daughter, by the water.

An old man hangs around

The bronze statue by the entrance.
He says this beach was named for the betrayal
Of a Mexican president,
Delivered by an Italian sea captain
For the price of 50,000 pesos
Into the hands of his captors onshore.

The beach called simply “The Delivery” or,
More poetic, if you want, “The Surrender.”

Was it karma, for his raids
Against the natives?
Or was it for his valiant efforts
Against the Spanish?

Maybe none of us is either good or bad,
Any more than this beach
Is gray or black, any more than these trees
Are made of birds.

On a rare gray day we go to the beach.
You blame yourself while I watch
My own sad shiftless heart
Drift to sea on a dark glass ocean.

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