I am in the habit of writing a poem about once every 2 to 3 years. I wrote one the other day, right on schedule - I think the last time was in 2006 - and I thought I would put it up here.
1. At least here it's not so g-d hot.
In Managua it hurt to go out
at midday. So I stayed in, reading
trashy novels, reclining on a
leatherette couch, slick and brown and cool.
The bus ride north was a slow ascent
through wispy clouds spritzing a fine mist.
Seven dollars and fifty-six cents,
or almost two-hundred cordobas,
2. will buy you a night in a clean place
with tile floors and a working TV.
For a strong cup go down the street. The
cafe is called The Light of the Moon,
in Spanish of course. A bacon egg
sandwich reminds me that this is not
America, as if I could have
forgotten. Gringos read guidebooks and
plan their next moves. I am planning mine
3. too. Dawdling in Esteli stop me
thinking about how alone I am
in my site, a tiny town too small
to even be called a village. It's
a pueblo - a pueblito, una
comunidad - of seven hundred.
There are no fruits or vegetables there,
which continues to surprise me. But
everything about Nicaragua
4. surprises me: How do the women
get so fat on rice and beans? And who
ever heard of riding six deep on
a rickety bicycle? What do
the dogs eat? Beans and rice, just like the
people. In this country I have learned
how rich I really am. On less than
ten American dollars I can
live comfortably for a whole week.
5. It hasn't rained in over a month.
Even as they laugh, the farmers wring
calloused hands. Even as they proffer
red beans, tortillas, coajada, the
women secretly wonder - is there
enough to make it until next year?
Who am I in the face of such a
calamity? With my salary
and my American bank account.
6. "I'll just join the Peace Corps" is something
you hear people say. Once they've signed up,
then what? The glamor is minimal,
I can promise you that much. Though time
does stretch out languorously in front
of you. Two years in a grass hut, or
a zinc-roofed cottage or a yurt will
teach you certain things about yourself,
some you might not want to know. But your
7. gratitude will save you. Or that is
my hope. A crappy bacon sandwich
and a cup of coffee are sometimes
all you need. An afternoon in a
foreigner cafe restores a sense
that one has had other lives and will
continue to accumulate more.
A chocolate bar, however grainy,
is still, after all, a chocolate bar.
8. With gratitude I eat the red beans,
the salty fresh cheese, the palmed out corn.
But I relish the days I can spent
not feeling responsible, the nights
in hotels, with pizza delivered.
It's not good pizza, but it's OK.
I was reading The New Yorker when
I found a poem written in nine-
syllable lines, nine lines, nine stanzas.
9. So I decided to write one, just
to pass time in this cafe, over
an egg-toast-bacon sandwich and a
cup of coffee, milk not included.
The bus leaves at half past one. I'll be
home by three. But how I wish for one
more night with fresh clean sheets and cable
television. Tonight it's back to
the mosquito net. Oh, lucky me.