The instant I saw this Coca Cola table, I remembered a trip to Mexico and an afternoon snack beside a tropical river. That must have been an important day, as back when I thought I was going to be a poet (~2003, for those of you working on writing my biography), I wrote a poem about that same afternoon:
Between Cancer and the Equator
The hotel’s pink stucco façade –
faded from age and sun and inattention –
guards the narrow street.
Four Americans crawl
from a blue Ford
pushing their way through air
glutinous from just-ended rain.
Crossing the desolate lobby
to a jacaranda-shaded veranda
they sit on dented red chairs
drink tepid Coca Cola through paper straws
eat pineapple pan dulce.
a languid river creeps past
its thick water the same color as the pastry.
San Angelo, Texas
On early morning sidewalks
beneath soiled skies,
residents and shop owners swab away
Gaunt men with yellow brushes
clean Benito Juárez’s bone-white marble feet.
Young boys wash two cars
from a single pail of sudsy water.
Near the corner stand
bicycle bells scratch through the morning
as vendors transfer a slab of ice from bike basket
to orange plastic crate
where it will take all day to melt,
cooling the jumble of Coca, Pepsi, Peñafiel.
In la catedral,
a mother holds her little daughter to the font
guiding her hand – forehead, chest, shoulder, shoulder –
then helps the girl kiss her thumb
before they hurry down the aisle.
A fledgling priest begins Mass
with bursts of water from antique aspergillum.
illustrate the tilt of the old church,
pulled down sideways into the ancient Aztec lake.
Delivery trucks honk their way
through complicated traffic,
their cargo of 20-litre containers of water
for tall office buildings on la Paseo de la Reforma.
On la calle de Niza
shelves at el super K crowded with water jugs
beckon like pale, valuable gems,
while around the corner, hotel maids
leave two new bottles on the cheap plastic tray
in the tiled, fluorescent bathroom.
lure babies to sleep, an easy transition
from amniotic swoosh.
Statues of myth, of revolution,
bathe daily in splashing spray
in centers of palmy glorietas.
In the patio of Hotel del Cortés
elderly waiters deliver tall limonadas,
one careful ice cube each.
Beer ordered con lima receives four cubes,
a quarter-cup of lime juice,
a salted-rimmed tumbler.
Mid-afternoon cloudburst causes commuters
leaving the Metro at Copilco to stop,
fold barely-read newspapers into inadequate hats,
then splash up stairs,
now a waterfall from the rain.
Boutique clerks on avenida Presidente Masarik
put squares of brown cardboard over polished granite steps.
Thick drops splat against rolled-down plastic walls
of sidewalk cafes in la Zona Rosa.
After the storm
rain remains puddled in broken sidewalks.
An old woman brooms water away from her flower stand,
the hem of her pea green skirt drooping and damp.
The beggar who squats between the María Isabel Sheraton
returns to her post,
left hand cupped and outstretched.
Some of you may have noticed that every day, down in the Comments section, there’s a haiku about the day’s photograph. My friend Laurie Wagner Buyer Jameson writes them; I like the way those three-line verses add to the image that I captured. In fact, I liked it so much that I started to think about ways her words could get equal billing with the photographs.
And what Laurie and I decided to come up with is a new blog, The Poetry of Photography. For starters, we will be re-posting poems-and-images you may have already seen. And who knows where we’ll go from there.
So stop by and take a new look at our work. We think you’ll like it.