Poems of Place: Central America and Lisbon


First, two strong drinks served to us by Kristiane Weeks-Rogers.

Mexican Drinking Toast

La Catrina’s teeth are tucked all over streets
of Mexico; between cobblestones, vendor stands.

Behind smoke-drenched sheets sweeping
a breeze heavy with salt, toda la sal,
rimmed glasses we lift up, arriba!
her white teeth shine down from shrines,
sculptures, paintings propped on rafters.

Glass down on table, abajo, a grounding tap, a
hollow call
to her company, hat tipped, dressed even in

the streets are blinded by her skirts,
red on blue, on white mixed with subtropic sun,
no wonder she doesn’t have eyes,
it’s too easy to be blinded, she knows.

Plus her grin angles  just right,
reaches out to all, al centro.

The bodies in Mexico form a glass circle, clink
tequila shots,
drink her smile, hollow bones, eternal hole, al
assimilate—it is a cycle of toleration, repetition as
get used to the glow, arriba, abajo, al centro,

like a dark glow of dusk shining on pane:
al dentro.


On the way to Anejo,
I am in a thick glass bottle plopped in Kentucky
Blue grass,
hand-blown and a little-off with bubbles
some view of woman waiting for the right time
to get past mother…
On the way to extra anejo
I must travel through opacity, through ghosts
across walls or sun-drenched desserts,
Written ghosts processed as pages and pages and
over gold, there must be flexibility
to wander these tunnels,
sharpness or willingness to stay a while,
find some space like encased self in trunk of oak,
marinating is an aspect
of self I rely on, the better with age
(and maybe yearning impatience).

Take a gulp, it takes time to discern salt from
swish in circles, swish in circles, despite my
disdain for getting ocean in my mouth.
I like when things shine as you turn them, shake
them up to get at all angles,
When you swirl a bottle of tequila, the liquid
moves in lines
as copper wires transmitting knowledge
through metallics, through light, through
Take a gulp to feel fire blankets from within,
Clinkle of teeth, a caramel voice is the spark
worth waiting to reveal.

Next, we set off on a day trip with our guide Lorraine Caputo.


What is it with this place?
Why has it awakened my inner voice –
even before I arrived? …

This Place of the Dead …

Why do I feel quiet?
Why do I want
to quiet my Self
to the world of man around
to listen to the World of Mother?

All I hear
is the thundering surf
All I see
is the ocean
churning white, ripping the beach
carrying sand towards the far horizon
churning, ripping around
the cragged heaps of rock ….

My eyes
follow the butterflies among the triangular-box
spine-scalloped stems of cactus trees
My eyes
follow the cats among the drying scrub brush

My eyes
follow the slow passing naval ship
on this side of the horizon
My eyes
follow the nude bathers wading into that
churning, ripping ocean

I am hoping this Place of the Dead
won’t claim another
I am wondering why the hell
they enter those deadly waters
My mind answers:

An iguana
appears on the stone wall below
then disappears over the edge
A buzzard
flies high from the cliffs above the sea
its wide black zopilote wings
cast a shadow below

I wonder at
the force of these waves
the conflicting currents
ripping them apart, making them
slam into one another
I wonder at
my stillness in the face
in the place of death

– Zipolite
Zipolite –

The sea here is
Xonaxi Queculla
the destroyer
the goddess of Death

I watch her wild dance of the waves
I hear her wild angry, thundering voice

O, Mother Xonaxi Queculla
I shall respect your strength, your force here
I only ask
that you wash my feet, my ankles
with your warm, salty waters
Please, Mother Xonaxi Queculla
touch me gently, caress me

– Zipolite
Zipolite –

Even at the Bay of Love
upon the ancient humped volcanic flows
the waves rise, leaping over the rocks
towards the heavens

I wonder
how many forgotten lovers
have walked into these blue-green waters
foaming at the mouth of this bay
crushed upon the ragged rocks
tossed, pulled, ripped by the currents
flying towards the heavens
on the great white leaps of waves
salt spray falling, falling upon the crags
back into the sea

I found
the sole of a woman’s once-spike-heeled shoe
washed up on the rocks, lying amongst
the bleached shatters of shells

– Zipolite
Zipolite …

This Other Day

The new sun seeps through
the narrow streets & alleys
of the Old City.
From the Chinese laundry
the radio plays
boleros & cha-cha-chas.
Like every day
The pigeons begin amassing
on the electrical lines & railings
of one cream-colored building.
Soon a shirtless husband walks
out onto his balcony
& broadcasts yellow corn seed.
The birds rise in flight
to him then rise away.

A family strolls up worn-
brick streets to church the children
all in light Sunday best.

In that cream-white building,
a young man rests
on a window seat.
He leans against the
wrought-iron balustrade
in the cool shade.
His woman brings him coffee.
They embrace, watching
the street below.

On that balcony above,
in full morning light,
& like every day
The wife comes, psst-ing
& tossing shreds of mortadela
to the cats below.

*        *

Church doors are closed
against the growing heat
of early afternoon.

In a plaza
abuelitos sit in the shade

of an ancient flamboyán tree,
three boys play tag
around the monuments.

In a sala of windows
open to the
tempering sea breeze,
a man watches the
lottery drawings on TV
His multitude of losing tickets
spread before him.
On the way back to his room
he stops before the Virgin.
He prays & tosses a coin
into her glass altar.

*        *        *

This other day fades.
The dulled sky, the dulled sea merge.
Shadows deepen
down the streets,
down alleys,
& catch in the worn bricks
of a ruined building
curtained with vines
from whence escapes a
bird’s evening song.

Matt Duggan closes out this spotlight by showing us a different side to Lisbon than that found on most tours.


Wake to the bustle
smell cinnamon – sound of an accordion
played by a woman with sewn eyes;
Square-shaped floor
lantern in mosaic white
glass lined with moving lobsters
beggars change shifts
swap wooden crutches
beneath golden opening arches
Hands steal from pockets
that no longer hold fortunes,
just empty black leather
that smells of sun cream
the insides full with old receipts
color like dead locusts found
underneath a dying tree trunk;
sleeping above the bustle
smell cinnamon – Keys to an accordion
played by a woman with sewn eyes.



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