By Doug Tanoury 


In Merida there are arches everywhere, 
Grand openings to fine vistas and 
Simple entryways of more mundane places, 
Some monolithic apertures in stone walls, 
Others flying entrances, lifted aloft by columns: 
Doric, Ionic, Corinthian and Mexicano. 

An arch is the softest of openings and 
The most perfect portal for moving 
Through the hard divisions in life, 
Between spaces separated by function, 
Opening one into another without the 
Broken and jagged edges of lines. 

A city gate that rises high above the street 
Frames lanes of taxis and city buses with its 
Classical Roman form as if to confer 
Some type of imperial order on the crazy 
And crowded tangle of traffic that passes 
Through its arch like a cavalcade of Vandals. 

In Merida all entrances and exits are done 
With classical flourish, and all mistakes 
Are mitigated by an architectural order, 
As everything that passes through an arch 
Appears more refined and even the most 
Incongruous spirit emerges more perfect.

La Ermita de Santa Isabel

At the end of Calle 66 where the street 
turns from pavement to red bricks 
that rise and fall slightly in shallow swells 
like the sea and lead to the little church 
with a simple Spanish facade raised up high 
on a pediment surrounded by tall palms, 

I sit crowded in a narrow wooden pew 
for Sunday Mass on May mornings 
when it is hot and my shirt sticks to me 
as I sweat all the sinfulness out my pores 
and my vices drip slowly from my brow 
to land on hands folded in prayer, 

As I pray for the coolness of God’s 
mercy and I ask that He judge me in 
Spanish, although all my sinning has been 
done In English, for I know that 
His Spanish judgment will be more 
merciful and the most forgiving.

Breakfast at Banamex

Wearing a tight black dress and  
Very high heels with sharp pointy toes,  
The woman standing in line says: “Huevos Rancheros.”  
The sounds the words make as she says them are sexy.  

“The oven must be very hot,”  
Says a woman in a white huipile  
Standing behind her, “At least 500 degrees.” 

“Celsius?” A man in a navy blue business suit standing  
in front of the woman wearing the tight black dress and  
Very high heels with sharp pointy toes asks,  
And a woman in a grey dress standing in front of him  
hisses “Idiota” and slaps him on his belly.  
There is laughter up and down the line.  

“You must use tortillas de masa” a woman's voice says  
From the front of the line.  
She is out of sight near the bank teller’s windows.  

The line is long now and loops, twists and snakes  
back upon itself and there is a man in a red guayabera  
near the end of the line that is standing  
Across from the woman wearing the tight black dress and  
Very high heels with sharp pointy toes,  
And he says, and it is not quite certain,  
But he seems to be talking to someone  
Who is not there or perhaps to himself:  
“Breakfast is the saddest meal to eat alone.

It says so much about you, like your lover has left you.  
You sleep alone at night. You have no one.”  
The woman wearing the tight black dress and  

Very high heels with sharp pointy toes looks at the floor and  
Pretends she does not hear the man wearing the red guayabera.  
The line falls silent and no one speaks.  
A teller through a window calls,  
“Next! Siguiente por favor!

Moment in the Garden 

In the garden 
There is 
Moonlight in the palms, 
And music 

The strum of one 
Guitar string 
Held for a 
On the air, 

Your finger 
Against my skin-- 
A small 
Beaded blue lizard 
Resting on a leaf.

Tropical Twilight

In April we watch the palms backlit against the purple sky 
Of a tropical twilight, when the nights grow hot, the air 
Heavy and so thick that seconds slow and some are 
Entirely skipped like an elusive arrhythmia of the heart. 

In our coming together, parting is implied, as when one says: 
“Creature that lives” at the same time says: “Creature that will
 die” Although unstated, it is understood fully, especially on hot nights \
When time comes to a full stop and begins a backward flow, 

Slowly at first in the initial momentum that overcomes the inertia 
Of an object at rest, then moving more rapidly it picks up speed 
To the point where my hands are leaving her breast, our embrace 
Breaking, lips parting and the space between our bodies growing, 

As we find ourselves speeding apart, two galaxies in and ever 
Expanding universe, our footsteps fall more faintly as we move 
Farther away and the sound of our voices diminish to a distant 
Whisper, like a breeze in the palms, before attenuating into silence.

One thought on “Five Merida Poems

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