Avenida Quinta

The window sashes, once eggshell white,

have faded to cracked and curdled cream.

Memories of Moorish Spain

sleep in the peaks and arches of these windows,

now softened by time and the Caribbean salt air.

Likewise, the stuccoed walls,

tagged with graffiti,

assaulted by lianas and ficus,

have crumbled in places.

The gate of sapote wood gleams darkly solid

In the bright Mexican morning,

while an aggressive sun bleaches the lesser wood to spectral gray.

Not long for this world, this old queen of the avenue

Succubi of broken masonry and twisted rebar surround her,

ravenous building lots, chewing up the old ways

and disgorging money.

She waits her turn, a still substantial ghost,

one of the walking dead, so to speak,

half-hidden by those walls

 with their cascades of bougainvillea—

scarlet, foam-white, shocking pink.

The polished gate still protects one sanctuary,

a vain hope,

like the studded door to an tenth-century English abbey

surrounded by Vikings.

Then, from within, an antique lock clashes,

the massive gate trembles and opens.

Two Maya women in embroidered huipils exit and open their parasols

The elder, her hair wound in a tight bun,

wears a heavy gold necklace and pendant earrings.

A shawl of watered olive silk loops under her right arm

and across her left shoulder.

A heavy jade bracelet flashes green on the arm of her daughter-companion,

Reminders of an earlier time,

these two,

Like nobility, taking in the morning air, on their way

to church, perhaps,

towards the clanging bell.

While,

elsewhere along the avenue,

bars and cafes rattle open,

and construction workers

buy their breakfast from bicycle carts.

MC, 2001

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