Spring 2011, Volume 10

Poetry by Christopher Buckley

My Last Break-Even Reading in Miami 

I haven’t seen a single flamingo, only 1 scraggly pelican over the waterway. 90 million dollar jetliners ascend into the blue.  5:00 clouds striated and reified in the western light as if Wallace Stevens were still standing on top of the Fontainebleau, Gibson in hand, directing traffic up there. And instead of walking South Beach with the TV stars, or sharing a cortadito with Gloria Estefan, I hit the gym for a free hour on the treadmill, the price to sit here with my glass of Dr. approved red wine, amazed at everything that defies the sky. 

Motor cruisers and speedboats are anchored 50 yards away, 19 to the dozen—a good bet their owners all have agents.  I’m relaxing on a 4 foot square balcony jutting from the 11th floor, a steady draft rattling the railings.  A sip or two of my impertinent Cabernet and anything seems possible.  To my left, at the end of the wind tunnel the hotels form, Murillo’s beatific blue—that old backdrop installed above Key West for Hemingway, sail fishing on thin test—has me almost believing my time was not wasted reading to journalism majors at the community college.  At least my hotel room is covered, except for meals, parking, and the bottled water in the room at 4 bucks a pop, except for the sport fishing.

I’m sitting on the one chair, back to the wall, plastic table wedged into the corner.  I’m indulging in a Portofino, a pencil-thin Macanudo, only $10 in the lobby gift shop—a brand that used to be Cuban—another luxury tax on the imagination.  On a balcony, a baseball throw away, a brunette—all legs it looks from here—is lacquering her nails with diligence and concentration, but my attention drifts to the parking garage below, its roof stenciled for tennis and shuffle board, but no nets, no fence—a 3–foot wall, good for nothing given insurance costs and common sense.  The top level is cheap apartments—all the windows with beige plastic curtains—and no balconies, just a 3-foot square opening over the stairwell where 3 or 4 Hispanics catch the breeze, cupping their hands, as if in prayer, to light cigarettes and laugh, enjoying themselves for a few minutes as much as anyone I’ve seen.  I find it instructive, and am determined to smoke my Portofino without irony, down to the overpriced nub, give thanks despite the eviscerated economy the Republicans left us, the breadcrumbs trailing off to the Cayman Islands.

I’m half a dozen causeways and 5 miles from the hot spots, the clubs, the famous Cuban restaurant we drove by at lunch time on the 10 minute tour— The Delano, The Dorchester South, and Hibiscus Island where the basketball players and brokers have estates.  For dinner, I will take my VISA card down stairs and eat a fish while there is still something left to celebrate from the sea, while I still have half an inch on my credit line.   I have the whole evening free, the agreeable company of clouds, or movies on the house TV, which I can add to my incidentals at $14.99 each.  For now, I am savoring what’s left of my wine, the world at its glittering distance, most everything passing you by.  I am only 62.  I have time.   I might get there yet . . . .



BIO: Christopher Buckley teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry for 2007-2008. His fifteenth book, Modern History: Prose Poems 1987-2007, was published in 2008. He won the 2009 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. His new book of Poetry, White Shirt, will be published in 2011 by the University of Tampa Press.