by Frank Thomas Smith
The problem with most foreign lands
is that they're far, too far away,
like the bleachers in Ebbett's used to be
before the debacle of technology.
Also, either they're terribly bland,
foggy, windy and damp, or,
if southerly, downright dangerous,
where bullets fly and sunscreen 21
can't ward off the assassin sun.
Why, then, does he dwell,
ducking and frying, far from the patria
he tearfully invokes over juice of the grape
at a sidewalk table of the corner taberna?
Call it if you will, with a shrug, "escape".
He'll smile and wave away a bug
or give his drooping mustache a tug
frown his glabrous suntanned brow.
Could be," he mutters, "but who cares now?"
He'll bid goodbye to you and,
sandal-clad as once Ulysses,
his uncashed pension check
snug against his bony chest,
walk along the winding lane
home to his dark-tressed mistress
who waits with kisses and a wanton caress.
Foreign lands are far away,
it's true, but so is the expatriate.
Chess and Cheese in Crete
To sit outdoors in Crete
with you and coffee, hardtoast,
creamy butter and yoghurt
after a soothing swim
in the rosy-fingered dawn...
And for lunch at the bubbling port
lukewarm vegetables, cheese,
the deceptive yellow retsina
churning my middle-aged blood,
In our room on the creaky bed
with the shutters open wide,
a window on the sea,
your hard nipple swelling,
contemplating it I...
One day a thoughtful Arab,
on folding up his tent
under the desert stars,
touched by the God of chess
invented and played the game.
I ask (silently, my love)
how far we are from that country,
and do we care, now,
as I penetrate the darkness
and mate your castled queen.
Falú in Zurich (1978)
You are a tall man, Falú, and strong,
the guitar is like a flower in your hands,
fingers darting like dragonflies over the strings,
bald head gleaming in the theater lights,
craggy face without emotion.
Playing with songs like Aires Sureños,
El Cóndor Pasa, Vidalita.
We hear you Falú, the hunted and the exiled,
we hear you well. The Swiss will nod
and applaud you well, but they hear you not.
I'd like to walk down that street again,
You know the one I mean?
Lined with trees and parked cars,
And when you pass the deli
A cat dashes from nothing on one
Sidewalk to nothing on the other?
The sun follows at a leisurely pace,
Far longer it takes to cross,
No star has been seen in thirty years,
The moon is glimpsed occasionally
On a clear night if you don't blink.
Children sprout from the gutters screaming:
Let's play stickball or kick-the-can,
And fade into their homes at night,
Only to reappear the next afternoon,
Regularly, as Orion once did.
I'd like to visit that street again --
Just once, to see what it's become.
A window flew open clattering wood,
A girl leaned out as far as she could.
The gentle breasts that filled her dress
Palpitated with distress.
A moment later on the bottom floor
A man flung open the rotting door.
She cried: "¿Cuándo volverás?"
"That", he spat, "I know not".
He limped across the puddled street,
Cursing the slowness of his feet.
I've often wondered but never learned
If that man ever returned.