for T. Andrew Carter
Yellowed and chipped the teeth of Gomez,
slumped drowsy on a chair in a Veracruz cantina,
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
Brown the eyes of Isabella
who climbed the hotel stairs with him.
Her body, a well, a breeze,
taking the dust from his tongue.
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 takenbeyond the reach of divers.
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.