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Four Poems by Daniel Bennett

Buenos Aires

 

The Maradona impersonator 

in the streets around La Boca

understands the gift of colour. 

A diamanté earring, goatee,

the paunch of a lazy Caesar:

 

he’s the coke-slob incarnation 

of El Diego, only a few cents 

buying you a photo as gaudy 

as yellow buildings, his gold teeth 

bold as carnival paint. In San Telmo

 

a couple dance in an empty square

and their audience is a ruined doll

sitting in a junk shop window, 

the hiss on a tango record 

is their applause. So far from home, 

 

surrounded by the music of sex 

and funerals, you imagine universes 

spiralling in abstract dimensions, 

the ones which see you die in this city

if only because in this city

 

you have been so alive. 

Like the La Boca impersonator

who approaches a mirror 

anticipating another’s face 

but discovers only glass.

 

 

Montevideo

 

The River Plate is toad green

and excellent, mui bien

according to the woman

who swims beside me in cutoff jeans.

 

She points out a pathway over rocks, 

laughs when my feet slide on stone,

her expression lovely and genuine,

her teeth rotted to stumps. 

 

But decay is the point of this city: 

the French villas in the old town

crumble into elegance, their plaster

held in place by graffiti poses.

 

The river throbs over us 

wide as a sea, named by explorers 

who longed for Sierra del Plata,

the fabled silver in the mountains.

 

The woman jumps through waves

hand in hand with her daughter;

her daily reward, this municipal beach. 

I am passing through these lives.

 

On the shore, her husband 

smokes in the shade,

gazing out over the water,

‘Huevo Felix!’ daubed behind him on the wall.

 

 

Mendoza Journey

 

The clouds have riotous forms,

white sculptures issued over the Andes,

which are sculptures themselves,

chiseled out for, oh, fifty million years…

 

A car ride through the valley 

where they have strived for miracles

for three generations: water 

where there has been no water,

grapes and peaches grown from dust.

 

Bolivian workmen stalk the white concrete,

necks protected from the sun

by T-shirts worn under hard hats:

dehydration is preferable to the sun’s glare.

 

Two men push a rusted Renault

into the verge, the same car 

my family drove in Cyprus

over thirty years before. 

 

But any life is a loop of movement

and vague retorts, like firing a gun

in the middle of a desert. 

A black dog 

snuffles in the ditch, an old woman

by the open air market

winces up at the sky

before picking through avocado, bananas. 

 

Driving in the centre of the highway

protects the evenness of tires 

against the wearing camber

and sharpens your nerves

in the face of oncoming traffic

 

but everyone gives you plenty of time.

The roads are straight and purposeful

and take you exactly where you intended.

 

 

Gauchos 

 

The old man plays guitar on the veranda,

his voice a thin bird

trembling over songs 

perhaps a hundred years old. 

 

His bones are as light as pumice,

his body withered by falls

and the weight of a life. 

Only on horseback does he come alive. 

 

Around him, across the grounds,

are trees planted by the German owner:

eucalyptus, oak, chestnut, 

sycamores from England.  

 

The younger riders wait tables,

offering smoked meat from the grill,

attending to guests who travel here

from Europe and America. 

 

And after work, these men return

to day jobs in the city, 

or to study law or architecture 

in community colleges. 

 

The consequence of a nomad life

is that the tradition uproots itself 

and disappears into the grassland,

stays lonelier than any desert or sea.

 

 

Daniel Bennett was born in Shropshire and lives and works in London. His poems have appeared in a number of places, most recently in Structo, Antiphon, and The Yellow Chair Review. He is also the author of the novel All the Dogs, and blogs at absenceclub.wordpress.com.

 

 

Image credit: krheesy

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