Author photo by Peter's son, Walter Bakowski

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Written in a woman's hand

for T. Andrew Carter



Yellowed and chipped the teeth of Gomez,

slumped drowsy on a chair in a Veracruz cantina,

waiting

for his ship to leave port,

to descend again in coveralls

engine room steps,

ready with clipboard, rag, wrench and pliers

to check, adjust, repair or replace

each pipe, pump and filter

in an enclosed world

he understands.


Brown the eyes of Isabella

who climbed the hotel stairs with him.

Her body, a well, a breeze,

taking the dust from his tongue.


Other Isabellas

in Miami, Houston and New Orleans.

Earrings and stories—

a violent boyfriend, a backstreet abortion,

plans to go to night school.


Gomez listened —

their talk, full of undercurrents and debris.

What creatures scuttled and preyed

in that pressing darkness.


Fog. Typhoon. Iceberg. Hidden reef.

All manner of man, woman and child taken

beyond the reach of divers.

Those ghost ships, ghost faces,

seen again

from a deathbed

or in an orphan’s dreams.



Play the accordion, harmonica and guitar.

Drink bright whiskey and rum.

Search the sky and the bible again.


A Pedro Infante song on the cantina jukebox.

When it ends

Gomez looks down at the sweatband

of his Panama hat.

He’ll begin this new day

with a shave then a shoeshine,

see if there’s a letter

at the post office

from any Isabella.

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