Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17: A Visit, Richard Blanco, "El Florida Room'

A poet friend of mine just stopped by for a visit.  She used to be a professor at the university where I teach.  Over the years, we have worked on a lot of projects together.  When she was poetry editor of the university's literary magazine, I was her assistant editor.  She directed my MFA thesis and my Master's thesis.  When I'm with her, I feel like a real writer.

The reason for her visit--she wants me to judge a poetry contest with her.  Of course, I accepted the offer.  I haven't gotten too many opportunities to do things like that recently.  When my friend was at the university, we spent many hours combing through poems for the magazine.  It was an exciting time for me.

As she was leaving this evening, she gave me a hug and said, "This will be just like the good old days."

I hugged her back and said, "We still have a lot of good days ahead of us."

I'm still basking in our conversation, which ranged far and wide, from poetry and writers to Donald Trump and racism.  It made me a little nostalgic, I have to admit.  I miss the time when I felt a little more . . . valuable in the English Department.  When my opinion mattered for something.

In tonight's poem, Richard Blanco sort of captures the ache that I felt after my poet friend left.  For a while, it was as if I'd taken a few steps back in time.

Now, Saint Marty is in Trumpland again.

El Florida Room

by:  Richard Blanco

Not a study or a den, but El Florida
as my mother called it, a pretty name
for the room with the prettiest view
of the lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up
against the windows, the tepid breeze
laden with the brown-sugar scent
of loquats drifting in from the yard.

Not a sunroom, but where the sun
both rose and set, all day the shadows
of banana trees fan-dancing across
the floor, and if it rained, it rained
the loudest, like marbles plunking
across the roof under constant threat
of coconuts ready to fall from the sky.

Not a sitting room, but El Florida, where
I sat alone for hours with butterflies
frozen on the polyester curtains
and faces of Lladró figurines: sad angels,
clowns, and princesses with eyes glazed
blue and gray, gazing from behind
the glass doors of the wall cabinet.

Not a TV room, but where I watched
Creature Feature as a boy, clinging
to my brother, safe from vampires
in the same sofa where I fell in love
with Clint Eastwood and my Abuelo
watching westerns, or pitying women
crying in telenovelas with my Abuela.

Not a family room, but the room where
my father twirled his hair while listening
to eight-tracks of Elvis, read Nietzsche
and Kant a few months before he died,
where my mother learned to dance alone
as she swept, and I learned salsa pressed
against my Tía Julia’s enormous breasts.

At the edge of the city, in the company
of crickets, beside the empty clothesline,
telephone wires, and the moon, tonight
my life is an old friend sitting with me
not in the living room, but in the light
of El Florida, as quiet and necessary
as any star shining above it.

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