Three hundred fifty
the giant green
Harriet’s Bluff Road
and you cannot
help but wonder
Harriet’s true road
is holding back
from telling you.
It was tacky then, it’s epitome
and six decades and unknown views later
it hasn’t changed at all.
You don’t expect tackiness
to accrete, yet like a black hole
this is irrefutable evidence it has.
To say it is garish to insult
the term, since it is so much more,
beyond anything the term can describe.
It has grown uglier, something not
thought possible, yet here it is.
You cannot fathom why Mexico,
which truly lies just south of the border,
has not filed a diplomatic protest
over this quintessential insult.
In Jalisco state, you imagine
A thousand Pedro’s would cringe
if they knew what had been wrought
in their name, and the South Carolina
state police, you think, they just up the road
knowing the wiser travelers will step
on the gas in a vain attempt to escape.
He always wanted to take
the scenic route home, it
didn’t matter if it took longer,
he probably preferred that
and he rarely commented on the scenery.
It was more that he didn’t want
to get where they were going
and the scenic route was guaranteed
to take longer and with luck
they’d get lost once or twice along the way.
He’d be fine when he got there,
it was about the arriving, and the leaving
both of which were abrupt, and abruption
carried with it the fear he would
never again find the peace of place.
We have police for almost everything
these days, ports and airports, cities, towns
transit authorities and those whose beat
is good taste or lack of it.
Most enforce laws, some merely
regulations, a few making them up as they go.
My phone rang this morning, an 800 number,
And knowing better, I answered it.
It was a bank, one where I have never
had an account, telling me there was a problem
with my ATM card and I needed to call
immediately to reactivate the card.
Unfortunately I didn’t write down the
the call back number, and now
some poor scammer is sitting by his phone
with time on his hands, imagining
the free meals he might have had
doing federal time for wire fraud.
If only there were the telephone police,
but they have all gone to work
for the NSA, recording my callback numbers.
He always paid passing attention to the coconut palms.
It wasn’t that they were so attractive as to merit attention.
Quite the contrary, they were remarkable ordinary as palms go.
But he knew that if the drivers here didn’t get him,
a ill-timed coconut leaping from a palm
would be pleased to do the job.
And that was just too horrid a way to go.
He could see the obit: “Killed by an angry coconut
whose natural gravitational journey
he had the temerity to interrupt.”
She is a small woman
dressed in white, save for black
platform slingback pumps
and cherry red eyeglass frames.
She hunches forward in her seat
seeming as though she might collapse,
pouring over tables and graphs –
biochemical research papers.
You measure the depth of her attention
by the frequency with which she pulls
single strands of hair from her banded ponytail,
strokes them gently, then, as if noticing they
have gone astray, tries to tuck them back in.
She pauses this ritual only to annotate
the paper’s margins in mechanical pencil
in a small, cramped hand, barely legible.
You know she has reached the paper’s conclusion
when she strokes that soft space
between those in upper lip
as though a teenage boy hoping
one day soon to grow a mustache.
You were born 128 years ago,
not a long time in the history of the planet
and a blink in the life of the universe
but two good lifetimes on the day
you came into the world, not knowing
what would become your place in it.
We celebrate you today, as we celebrated you
during your life, a rare feat for it
is usually one or the other, either
reason enough to have lived.
I still recall the great windows,
the larger-than-life paintings
that brought Moses into my age,
and I imagine you recalling the stories
you learned at the feet of your grandfather,
so I practice what I will tell my grandchildren
of the immense passion of the small museum
tucked away on a hill overlooking Nice.