Thursday, June 24, 2010

El Dorado

He was born down in Chiapas
underneath a mangrove tree
where his papa blessed the virgin
as he washed him in the sea

he mended nets at four and five
by six was in the boat
helping papa chase dorado
through the reefs he knew by rote

but the mangroves grew into hotels
and the boats got bigger, faster,
and the palm trees stretched up from behind
black bars and boards and plaster

So they slipped through Arizona
and they got to Colorado
working side by side with papa
always dreaming of dorado

They bought a van and followed
as the crops grew ripe and ready
sending what they could back home
though the schooling was unsteady

He learned to cook in Texas
to lay brick in Tennessee
how to keep a dead van running
how to trim and crown a tree

and when the time had come for him
to finally bury papa
he made good on what he promised
and returned him to Ixtapa

His sisters wept and kissed him
filled his belly with asado
and cerveza and ceviche
for their jefe, of dorado

He took long walks in the mornings
it was like a different town
but the north held nothing for him
so he thought he’d stick around

He found work on a charter
running tourists out all day
baiting hooks and gaffing bluefin
in the salt and sun and spray

and the ocean shone like tarpon
and he felt his papa’s hand
like an angel on his shoulder
every time he left the land

and it came like second nature
reading silhouette and shadow
tell the gringos where to drop it
watch them reel in dorado

He earned a reputation
and he earned a handsome fee
but his needs were pure and simple
just a boat, the sky and sea

and he passed on to his nephews
all the secrets that he knew
stories of their abuelito
until they could feel him too

Then when his breath grew shallow
and the toil took its toll
all his sisters wept and kissed him
and lit candles for his soul

but he’s out in open water
casting nets toward Coronado -
he is drenched in gold and azure
and he’s dreaming of dorado


Julie said...

Beautiful. You got me with the first line, and you hauled me in with the mangrove tree and net mending. I felt the sadness when the mangroves grew into hotels and the bars and boards and plaster took over.

Then I could picture them in the old van, broken down on the side of the road, trying to keep it running. Sending money back home. Showing the gringos where to drop a line. The whole story flows like an awesome movie, and I can't stop watching it. I wouldn't want to stop watching it.

You are wonderful at the telling of the story (the rhythm and voice), but the HUMAN elements of your stories are excellent. I know the people in this story, and I love them. They are truly the salt of the earth. A man who only needs the boat, the sky and sea--and passes that love down to his nephews--is tops in my book.

This is a beautiful portrait, Joaquin. I can see him out on that open water casting nets, drenched in gold and azure. Forever.

Nevine said...

So many things to love here, Joaquin. But I think what I enjoyed most was the communing of the spirits. Sometimes, in the silence, spirits and talking with spirits. Sometimes, we have to listen. That is why this is my favorite part:

and the ocean shone like tarpon
and he felt his papa’s hand
like an angel on his shoulder
every time he left the land

It's such a pleasure to be reading you again... I was gone too long, but it feels good to return to sharing such talented expression. I am always in awe of your talent!


signed...bkm said...

I love the whole story and see this whole story play out everyday around my town.... but I really love the last stanza --

but he's out in open water
casting nets toward Coronado

I can just picture it.....bkm

Aniket said...

'a boat, the sky and sea' - what else there is to ask for?

Like others said the words paint the perfect pictures to view this piece. A beautiful story of life coming full circle.

Karen said...

This is a beautiful story, one that is so real to me from your words that I wonder if it isn't real for you, too.

One of the things that makes your poetry so vital is the richness of detail in each piece. Whether it is dialogue or local color, you are a true master of believability.

Besides the richness and perfect narrative structure, the sound of your work is something I always look forward to and enjoy.

As you so aptly state, "Rhyme is not a cryme!" I agree!! The sound is married to the story and is as important as any other part of it. In your case, the rhythm enhances the narrative every time.

I can't tell you enough how I enjoy going along where you take me in your poems.

Sarah Hina said...

Sometimes I just feel lucky to read your work. Like it's a secret only a few of us are privileged to know. Gold and azure and open paint it all.

This is a stunning narrative poem. Tender and humble and flawless. It reads like a dream. Even on the fifth time around. :)

That last stanza is transcendent. I really can't imagine anything more beautiful. I've sat here for a good many minutes trying to find the words. But it's all right there.

Jannie Funster said...

One of the mst moving poems ever, Joaquin.

Just so many lines I loved in this.

Loved teh way the words black bars and boards and plaster rolled around in my mind.

"keep a dead van running" is magical too, as "just the boat, the sky, the sea."

just a stunner, simply beautiful -- loved it!!


Karen said...

You may think this is strange, but the poem reminds me of Hemingway and Garcia Marquez combined. And I mean that as a great compliment.

joaquin carvel said...

julie - yep - they are the salt of the earth. thank you - coming from someone who captures and depicts them like you do, your comments are almost overwhelming. in the best possible way.

nevine - no worries - as long as you make it back. thank you - glad you felt the connection in this. it's good to listen. and the awe is mutual. :)

bkm - thank you! it is played out all over - seems like the good people get lost in all the bad news, but they're there, every day.

aniket - i don't know - well, maybe "a star to steer her by". thank you. i'm glad it turned out so visual - it seems right for this one.

karen - i can't tell you how glad i am that you come along for the ride. as for believability - that made my head spin a little. and then to mention papa hem and gabo - i don't think there could have been a greater compliment. thank you.

sarah - shhhh. i won't be cool anymore if i get all popular. just kidding. seriously, though, i feel lucky to be able to share it with the people i do. thank you - i'm kind of partial to this one so it was hard to know if i should post it. glad i did.

jannie - thank you. and these are some of the most moving comments ever - truly. happy you dropped in!