by Jim Daniels

Living in Veracruz with a banker’s family,
I burned with lust for the sweet almond skin
of local girls, and no lotion or cream kept me
from turning red. Engaged back home, regretting it.
Dancing to please my hosts’ drunken friends.
Drinking lime-laced beer endless afternoons
with the boys across the street. Mango on a stick,
neon juice running down. Hot pepper on a dare
defining unquenchable. Jumping off a ten-meter
board into the future’s deep blue pool.

Ella. She. Somebody’s cousin invited to dance
with the American. I could not speak to her now,
my Spanish blown from this broken hourglass.
I said I’m taken when all I wanted was to be taken.
To please. To be pleased, my limbs loosening
in hot salsa’s seductive ooze. I held her sweet hand,
Mango on a stick. Hard seed. Valve of repetition. Ella.

Back in Iowa, clock hands stiffened
and my fiancée was not concerned with sunburn.
She gave my ring back when I returned.
My leftover stamps curled. I could translate
nothing. I’d brought her a stuffed frog.
Why’d we get engaged? Our gears twisted together
and froze in the muted quality of Michigan light.

Ella took me to the beach as a favor
to the banker. One coconut, two straws.
A permanent squint. Shedding skin, necessary pain.
No shade within 1000 miles or 50 feet. We told each other
whatever secrets could be translated. Turned out
to be quite a few. Thus, sunburn. Thus, regret,
thus, hot pepper on a dare. The surge of mango on a stick.
I kept the stamps for myself. In case I ever returned,
in case of the miracle of tongues.

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