The Prompt today was to write a poem that begins and ends with the same word.
“Dining Alone at the Maria Bonita Restaurant Bar”
Señor Garcia is smoking today.
Maria Phoenix lies on satin sheets
on the wall of Maria Bonita Restaurant Bar.
It is a small palapa restaurant––soft orange front with
hot pink trim–– that I’ve driven by hundreds of times before;
and every time, I’ve wanted to come in, but haven’t.
Now today, suddenly,
I don’t want to go home
and so my car turns in across the carretera.
I am the lone customer.
The cook and waiter
spring to action.
Totopos for him to bring,
a fire for her to light.
This is a fish restaurant
and I am a non-fish
eater, choosing between
quesadillas and beans
or a hamburger and fries.
Needless to say, I’m not here for the food.
I am here for the view and the limits
imposed by eating alone in an otherwise empty
restaurant/bar. I have a poem to write
and need the discipline imposed by a place
where there’s nothing else to do.
My only distraction is the view,
which forms the subject of my poem
and so is anything but a distraction.
The smoke from a dozen fires
rises into the air from the entire eastern slope
of Mount Garcia across the lake.
Whether by accident or by the hand of farmers
lighting fires to clear last year’s stubble from the fields,
the effect is that this extinct volcano
has somehow come to life,
Fanned by a recent wind, the smoke grows denser, rises higher.
Below the slopes, a patchwork quilt of strawberry and raspberry
fields, covered with plastic sheets,
spawn fruit for the tables of El Norte.
Maria, that other smoldering beauty, lies suspended all around me––
long canvas banners reflecting her screen loves and her roles.
She looks over one shoulder, wears a rebozo or a mariachi’s sombrero.
Cantinflas, that beloved clown, shares her wall but is never in a shot with her.
They are opposites: the sexual symbol and the comic. One raises tension
and the other seeks to dispel it.
I am in between, a mere observer, I know.
In every case it’s likely that the fire has been lit by means unnatural,
but nonetheless, it ignites my imagination.
I am surrounded by it.
“Blue Bayou” plays on the sound system.
My eyes sting from the smoke
that has filtered toward me
from eight miles or so across the lake.
The tears in my eyes are from the smoke,
not from memories of the departed one
I used to come with to these fish restaurants.
They are not the place for gringos.
Word is out about the sanitation
or where the fish comes from
or who might be encountered here.
A few restaurants down, there was a cartel killing
just about a year ago––perhaps more, perhaps less.
At any rate, Americanos and Canadians are rarely found here.
Today, no one else is found here.
“There’s no exception to the rule”
plays on the sound system.
“Everybody plays the fool.”
Feeling a stranger in the place where I live
is a feeling pleasurable to me––
an emotion I do not feel foolish for pursuing.
The waiter, as though I’m a repeat customer,
brings an entire bucket of ice
and fills my glass each time he passes.
They have my brand of rum.
I have always known this place could be my place.
The pleasure of knowing it to be so warms me
as much as the second jigger of rum.
Shall he pour it for me? Do I want it all?
Just half, I tell him, and fill the glass with Coke.
I like it weaker, so I can spread it out.
Like the fire.