He Is in Mexico Writing a Novel
All morning he sits in his little room
at a book- and paper-strewn table,
mostly gazing at the sun-flooded courtyard.
Just outside the window a blowsy rose dangles,
floppy dollop of yellow.
Under the little apricot tree,
a gangly geranium splatters scarlet
against the shady white wall.
A motorcycle revs up next door.
The greenhouse workers are breaking for lunch.
Their banter makes him envious.
He scans a page of typescript, chagrinned
by the nearly unreadable words he has penned
between lines and in the margins.
Deciding to seek some fellowship and food,
he gets up, grabs his wallet and cowboy hat.
It’s a short walk to the bus stop.
He lets his eyes roam over the stubbled fields,
their tan expanse broken up by cactus, maguey,
and tall dusty eucalyptus.
The usual bluish haze blurs the far-off hills.
At the corner he sits down on a patch of grass
on the crest of the irrigation ditch,
back hunched to the sun.
He asks the wary campesino standing in the wall’s scant shade
when the bus will come, and the man
squints down the washboard road toward San Simón,
answers with the all-purpose sing-song shrug:
They trade grins.
He asked just to hear it said.
A low black Trans Am rumbles by,
tough-looking hombre at the wheel,
super-cool, hardly bouncing in slow motion.
From the corner of his eye he watches the campesino
watch the chalky dust waft away,
thankful for small blessings like being upwind.
Down the side street,
an old guy’s eagerly dipping a tin cup into a maguey,
checking the sap for a batch of homebrew.
He recalls that ponderously translated line from Man’s Fate
his dorm-buddies approved as they passed around a joint:
“There is always a need for intoxication.”
A commercial jetliner's basso profondo
shatters the imaginary glass he’s raised.
A 727, American Airlines, landing gear down.
He imagines all the best sellers being tucked away now,
florid titles glinting metallic ink…
He wonders if he could still get his old job back,
that comfy niche in the work-a-day world,
a decent paycheck every two weeks.
A muchacho rides past on an old bike,
a hand-me-down he doesn’t quite fit.
He has to pedal standing up, lurching
from side to side as he lifts his crotch
back and forth over the crossbar.
He began with a running leap and now
his ambition’s a necessary faith, sustained
so long as he keeps pumping those pedals.
Our hero watches him fade into the glow
of metaphor, hears the bus’s clutch slip and grind.
He stands up and adjusts his hat to shade his eyes,
saunters over to where, más o menos,
the bus’s door will swing open.