I was fortunate to have an opportunity to spend some time traveling this winter. My journey stopped in South Beach, which provided me with a period of productive and meditative solitude sprinkled with fun with friends. I took long walks on the beach and in the city filled with the aliveness of tourists and locals. I had no car, which was a delight. I loved swimming in the warm blue ocean when El Nino gave the waves a moment to calm down.
I left my big studio and our B and B to spend time in a small apartment where everything I needed was at hand. I painted on the kitchen counter, wrote on a laptop and happily cleaned and did my laundry all in one small area. I know that an organized environment keeps me disciplined. And without my dear partner there to help me, little things, like always putting my keys and hat in the same place, helped me stay focused and organized internally, not a small accomplishment for a chaotic, busy mind.
Miami is, like any city, full of vibrant energy and plenty of problems. It’s very obvious that the homeless gravitate there for the relative safety of the warm climate and that they live in doorways while the millionaires look from their expensive balconies at fabulous ocean views. I found myself constantly thinking about the human condition and wondering if compassion alone is enough. Well, it’s a god start, anyway.
Here are two poems I wrote about my experience of Miami and a painting. Enjoy!
A young man whose body
is not beautiful is having trouble
eating his sandwich. It's oozing
onto his stained Bob Marley tee shirt
that hangs above his spilling stomach.
He sits next to me
beneath the bus stop canopy.
"You look like you want the local,
not that one," he says, as if it were on fire.
How does he know?
I'm not sure what I want.
As the local bus arrives, he says
"You need exact change."
Funny, most of my life has been inexact change.
I stand in line
my quarter ready,
a local user.
I crouched under the card table,
Mother clacking mahjong tiles,
her high heels pressing against me
to make sure I stayed there.
Miami was a warm womb;
Now, no more ladies around a game
at the swimming pool, no more
fur stoles and teased hair.
Now only the seismic shift of everything
that made my mom come here.
So, it's not the food I'll miss
though Cuban chicken soup,
richer amber, noodles thick, lime chaser.
is better than my mother's sober broth
with hard tack matzo balls.
Not the food, though I loved Chimichangas
at Las Olas, the salsa mix of brown skinned Cubans
that gather at the counter in the morning.
Not just the food,
even though the sweet creamy filling
in fresh baked cannoli
at the bakery on 5th Street
draws me like a nude
encounter with a dark Italian man.
It isn't for the food
I sit for hours in a café,
drink café con leche, eat pan de bono,
watch the locals,
listen to the babel of tourists.
I'm sad I have to leave
this city, the way its crazy,
teeming street people
emerge in my earned solitude.
And I'll miss then, all but extinguished
memories of my folks,
the way the hotel landscape
met the scary waves, the way
I love to swim today
because my father coaxed me in.