I dreamt I talked with the cartel and survived.
Who was I then, and where was I?
Culiacan? South of there? East? In the Sea of Cortes?
The mausoleums of a dead man’s Taj Mahal . . .
Then another . . . and another. Edifices great in size,
fearsome, enough to get you killed if you spit on one.
So the checkpoint waves us through. Now I was
not only dreaming but remembering. That’s why I woke
feeling amazed I could dream the same way memory ran
like a linear plot across the border to the great city
sweltering in its haze, Popocatepetl and Ixtacihuatl
from the top floor of the hotel in the middle of Mexico,
D.F. First, a swim and body surfing at Mazatlan,
skidding on my forehead and the red-haired wife
soothing my brow in the Lincoln Apartments.
These stories always have the same settings.
The same times. The same people. The same plot.
In Toluca on the way in, Patzcuaro on the way out.
There is a hotel and a lake, a city and a village,
a good night’s sleep going, a box of pottery coming
west again, then north until the border crosses me
and I feel lost, finally, alive but no longer home.
1967, 1968, then 1983 Chihuahua, the poet’s father
a retired railroad worker who also reads Neruda,
the city’s dons coming up after the first reading
asking if I was telling the truth about my childhood
and I assured them I was. I stayed many more days
before the red haired mejicana I had met
through a friend whose espanol shadowed
my anglais said the man pushing the wheelbarrow
with a canister of gas up the steep street
was preparing for the week and would go get
his wife out of the Hospital of the Poor at the end
of the week, her burns not healed yet but salved
and soothed, her tears dry that she wept when alone,
and then crossing the border a day later I was still
not home. And have I ever been home since . . .
(6 November–3 December 2010)
copyright 2010 by Floyce Alexander