by Richard Swanson
The airport just slightly larger than a soccer field,
the runway heading off into jungle, back then,
our plane a prop-driven thing seating eight,
we waited out on the grassy tarmac, resigned,
with a smirking recognition of veteran travelers:
departure delayed only half an hour,
a brand new record in a Latin time zone.
Then the town’s lone ambulance came down the runway,
siren blaring, crossing the field toward the plane – us –
skidding right up to its nose cone.
Alarmed, we looked at each other.
Was someone stricken? a fellow flyer? the pilot?
The ambulance crew poured out, equipment in hand,
flexible cables, red and black tipped, with crocodile clips.
Those couldn’t be what we thought, could they?
The guys were highly efficient, removing the engine
cowling , lifting the ambulance hood.
In no time at all we were jump-start connected.
the Pratt Whitney engine coughing to life,
its pistons blowing off built-up dust.
Down the runway we sped. Up and off we went.
Whew, what a relief, we thought.
It could have been something serious.
They’re making their way, the hermit crabs
off the sand, over the beachfront condo patio tiles
toward the left-out cat food.
He’s a gardener, Mayan face as soft as the petals
on hibiscus flowers he tends.
All those years he’s done the after-work extras:
mended the screen for the New York señora,
painted a chair for the Canada couple,
washed the rental car for the British businessman.
He could have savored his weekends like all the others,
workers like him, without education –
sat in the shade of an almendro tree a little.
Instead he’s been putting in hot-sun hours,
tucking away pesos for his boys, the family’s future,
their lives which will be so much better than his.
So happy he is, as they wave goodbye at the bus station,
off to the school at last, the polytechnic hours away,
with its outrageous tuition.
They’re back unexpected, one week later,
sheepish a little but resolute: They’re home for good.
they tell their father.
Why, why, why? he cries. Tell me, my hijos,
I don’t understand. All my work for you, sons!
Papa, they tell him, can’t you see? It’s so simple.
We missed you.
Since the mid-eighties, when Playa del Carmen was a town of 1200 people, Richard Swanson has spent extended time in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan. His three poems included here are part of a chapbook of Mexican life he’s still writing. The author of “Men in the Nude in Socks,” “Not Quite Eden,” and the recent “Paparazzi Moments”
(all from Fireweed Press), he publishes regularly, in print and on-line.
Photo by Eleanor Leonne Bennett