By: LC Gutierrez
Noone beats a man who runs that peacefully.
Eyes not even human while he prepares.
No stress, no cockiness. The external factors
are sprawled about him. They stretch and breathe deeply,
all catch themselves eyeing him for a moment.
For years, he hasn’t lost this race or another.
He was interviewed once.
The usual questions about how he does it.
All love and light and spirituality,
an African hill glowing green in the night,
things that normal people won’t believe or discuss.
If one constantly feeds, one must fearlessly give,
or one will have nothing.
The race is exercise for something much bigger.
He could walk away, intact and unbeaten
and certainly take it all with him.
GUATEMALAN COFFEE: 1996
Sudden puddles: the brilliant day shower-burst cleft.
Parched billows and spears of sharp light dance over mud, defy the advancing rain. (The gods of the rainforest parading through town?)
Puddles grow and percolate, splash upwards like living stalagmites.
Tiny ponds of café con leche to the left.
To the right a passing vehicle, and fine beige dirt, disturbed, coughs up dry clouds.
Dust retreats behind the bouncing trucks,
the earth sated with the steady drubbing, cools under a half-sun.
The impermeable thatched roof of a feed-the-gringos diner,
irregular wood planked walls, their chinky gaps pierced by sunlight.
Small winged things pass through the glassless windows
and light on the concrete floor. A fly whisks an ant off my table.
Rivulets like coffee and cream course fine trails from the road,
divert in tiny falls to a drain alongside the building.
Disappearing, as does the red gold plucked from the damp green mountainside nearby.
Best coffee beans in the world, a soil-rich nation’s treasure, off to foreign cupboards.
A quiet, dark girl brings my java. Tight braids and bright weaves,
clean as the sweep of a machete.
A mug of hot-boiled water and a small packet, which I hold and inspect:
The shape of the world in the cup of my hand,
(and in English!): Maxwell House Instant.
So much that matters can be ordered
With a click on Amazon and a wait.
Her heart, distilled in ethernet,
is comforted this way.
A house: dry-walled sanctum for a satellite
hub. Of millions likewise connected.
Name your poison, siphon in the juice.
Pay the bills. Ignore the surcharge.
Opinions, likes, and comments
only cost the seconds to send.
Report card arrives in the inbox,
with an avalanche of miscelanea.
There was land here once, and things grew.
A woman squatted to caress some leafy green,
tenderly assessing the hue and feel.
Patient and purposeful.
He will arrive, the message says
He will be late again.
Something abstracted, like the email she fires
off to the School Board. Scorching and mean.
It was hell, he would say.
The Libyan Desert,
sandstorms blinding grit
passed through cracks
like angry wasps,
flies thick as a shadow
on a young girl’s veil.
reading the paper
in a muggy screened porch.
Tasting the storm and
slouched like a gargoyle
over sharp black coffee.
Shuffling across the green
he tugs his sweaty visor,
spits on moist grass.
Ball’s in a sand trap:
the will recoils.
Squinting at the sun.
ivory-handled penknife and oxidized coins:
the pocket-dust detritus of a lifetime.
Through tattered business cards,
sifting for the names
of those who need know.
A hearse groans slowly
back up the driveway.
Nothing dries out here
save the back of a turtle
long out of the water
resting on a bank
as though time didn’t matter.
ABOUT SOFT LANDINGS
We are a couple of powerfully built metaphors like:
“jumping down his throat” and “screaming like hell”.
The neighbors wish us death (or so we suspect).
While you only make dinner plans with the obese,
and wouldn’t think of flowers without a funeral,
why can’t you be definitive enough to say goodbye?
If I could let you go, as one breath makes way for another,
as a word yields gently to the next, welcoming the break.
Instead of fixed, like a bird nailed backwards to a cross.
LC Gutierrez is a writer currently residing in Madrid, Spain. He studied comparative literature, and creative writing at Louisiana State University, and earned a PhD in Spanish Literature from Tulane University in New Orleans. After years in academia and running a bilingual program in Madrid, he’s turned his attention to writing and playing the trombone.