Monday, June 1, 2009
How To Eat Stuffed Fish In Juarez
How to Eat Stuffed Fish in Juárez
Jesus died for the sins of us all.
So I walked across the bridge to Mexico
with my friend Rus the basketball coach,
and we ate fish at the Villa del Mar
which seemed like
the natural thing to do.
It was Lent in a Catholic country.
The waiter was a pro, thank God.
Two Bohemias apiece,
chips and fresh pico de gallo,
bolillos (on the soft side)
a good and simple caldo,
the pescado was rellenado
con tiny shrimp and crabmeat—
the bill was 16 bucks and we added a four dollar tip,
becoming heroes because we had money in our pockets.
Outside the afternoon had become night.
The glass doors opened,
and like always
there was the river
of dark fleshy people
who walked up and down
like they knew where they were going.
Hallowed be their names.
Hallowed be all of our names.
We went and said Hello to Benito Juárez,
stern el Presidente Indigeno
gloriously astride a marble and bronze pedestal
in the exact center of a plaza
that carried his name like secret ammunition.
Pancho Villa and Emilio Zapata
were somewhere in the shadows of the flimsy trees,
happy to be the guardians of a pair of lovers
who were snuggled up on a green park bench.
The man had his hand inside the woman’s white blouse.
We turned back into the clutter of human beings,
the clanging traffic,
and a little Tarahumara brother and sister who found us
like lost pieces of a puzzle, blessed us
with their sad hunger, their black watery eyes
blinking with the memory of
the Sierra Madre,
All that we had to give was money.
50¢ for each of them.
Enough so that they fled back to their mother,
a tiny woman who sat on the curb with another baby
wrapped in a rebozo that was becoming the color of night.
It would have been nice
to have had my wife along beside me,
friend and lover, a woman
to touch my hand crossing the confused streets.
But Rus was okay—
he listened to the disturbances in my sentences
like a friend is supposed to do,
at least until he ran into a British travel-writer-novelist-acquaintance
who towed along a wife and a blonde couple from Baltimore,
all of them younger than me, all of them
delighted with who they were and who
they were going to be.
I should have told them about my brother Bill,
whose heart burst open one morning
two months before
after he had bagged his limit one last time
of beautiful mallard ducks
from the cold Mississippi sky.
The Holy Trinity—
God the Holy Blood,
God the Holy Dead,
God the Holy Food.
I didn’t because
this was Mexico and Mississippi is Mississippi
and my brother was dead now
So there we all were
five gavachos on the other side
with nothing to talk about
We avoided the subject for the most part.
At least we didn’t talk about basketball.
Thank you, Jesus.
I bought a bottle of Tequila and went home.
"Here are a couple of poems of mine from my book The Price of Doing Business in Mexico (1998). They are both poems about Juárez and how I feel about that city that’s five minutes from where I write this. Both poems are the same poem differently, but that’s okay."
Posted over on Bobby Byrd's Blog