Dining Alone at the Maria Bonita Restaurant Bar (Day 18 of NaPoWriMo)

The Prompt today was to write a poem that begins and ends with the same word.

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“Dining Alone at the Maria Bonita Restaurant Bar”

Smoldering.

Señor Garcia is smoking today.
Below him,
Maria Phoenix lies on satin sheets
on the wall of Maria Bonita Restaurant Bar.

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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.

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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.

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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,
springing leaks.

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.

Maria Phoenix

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.
Sleepy eyes.
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.

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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.

Smoldering.

6 thoughts on “Dining Alone at the Maria Bonita Restaurant Bar (Day 18 of NaPoWriMo)

  1. ann oneal garcia

    Lovely. I get to go with you, get to see the fires across the lake, as if the volcano were leaking, get to hear the juke box, Everybody Plays the Fool, wondering if I am a fool to sit here alone where I might be unsafe, but instead, get waited on hand and foot, get to taste the rum as I write, look up, dream a little, think about loves no longer with me, write a little, look across the way.
    So beautiful, amiga–both the poem and your way of going into the middle of things.

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  2. grieflessons Post author

    I took my friend here today. She was feeling really ill and glum. Maria Bonita did its magic. She loved it and left feeling very happy. We felt like we’d had a vacation at the beach. I had the same thing as last night and it was just as delicious. A cheeseburger with bacon and the most incredible fries dusted with chili. We drank “them” (the restaurant) out of añejo rum and had to make do with oro. Thanks for reading my blogs…oxoxox

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  3. Pingback: Fire on the Mountain!!! | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

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  5. SAM VOELKER

    You, once again, bring back very old memories, actually two or more, but all related.

    I visited, many years ago, the home of ‘Cantinflas’, in San Miguel de Allende. And it was such a beautiful place, especially the gardens. If you have not been there, it is one great place to visit… The gardens are beautiful. And of course you must stay at the “Posada la Ermita”, though I did not stay there.

    Mostly your write up reminded me of another place farther north that I visited on the same trip. It was in the hills above San Louis Potosi at a tiny restaurante, in a very remote setting. You did not need to ask if you could sit “outside” — it WAS outside~! With chickens, cats, dogs, birds, various wild animals, and kids running around among beautiful bearing fruit trees of every kind. Being the only guest there, I sat alone at a little metal table and asked for a Cuba Lebre. She brought a bottle of rum, a bottle of coke, and tall glass of ice,,, shook a lime from a nearby “limon” tree cut a “limon” an made the drink right there at the table, leaving both bottles refilling the ice and limes at times. Next they got an avocado from another tree plucked a tomato etc from the garden, and fixed a great guacamole salad for me. I had ordered “Aroz con pollio” and felt that any minute they were going to chase one of those damn chickens scratching around in the dirt…

    What fine memories. I may need to write about that long trip of “just wondering around Mexico” some day. What beautiful thoughts of great “simpatico” people, “con los brazos abiertos” in those beautiful tiny villages. I doubt that it is the same today as it was back then, but would do it again if younger, and could.

    Though I did spend time in Guadalajara, Lake Chapala was not of interest to me at the time~! But I did enjoy Guadalajara and returned there several times later.

    At the time I did not have the required 18 months non resident outside the country for Tax purposes.
    So I only went home long enough to buy a new car and spent the rest of my time just wondering around Mexico until I was reassigned to another contract in South America. This time was spent enjoying the great back roads and small villages of Mexico, stopping each night, if I liked the place~! I had a little brand new, “1954 bright RED Coverlet Sport Coupe” (by the next year called it was called an Impala), and at the end of my stay the urchin kids had “polished” all the paint off the finders, hood and back end to where the gray under coat was starting to show through. Even after I had a sign in the window saying “No molesto ~!”.

    Post Note: I left that beautiful little Hot Red car with my mom and then teen age sister. My little sister ran the tires off of it (got pregnant) and actually blew the engine. So I traded it in for a used MG-TD on my next trip home. It was more an an off color “pink (with no back seat for my sister)”~! And would not have been the proper car, if fun, for such a trip, but I did give the Texas Hill Country (and the girls) fits with it because my Tax time was filled by then~!

    Later I had worked out a deal where one of my buddy’s, or I would buy a car, and pass it along to the next one home on leave; this worked out cheaper than renting. But I kept the TD for years until it was stolen~!

    Oh and for years we could smell, in Texas, those fires burning in Mexico. They said that they were burning off crops, but I know a tire burning when I smell it~! And I would bet that we were shipping tires down there to be burnt by them at a price~!!! Not happening any more,,,,

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