Arrival from Issue 48
Touchdown at Simon Bolivar International.
Our wheels back, send smooke
over the kelp of La Guaira Beach.
In the airport, a processions of molded walls
guides us to Customs, to Baggage Claim and then
the auction of taxi drivers outside. They pull no punches,
fill your ears with the fare to downtown Caracas
and the story of their family’s starvation. One ambitious woman
has photographs, a collage of mutilated children
that might not be hers but are twisted enough
to awaken compassion. I take my bags to her car,
a battered blue Fiat without air conditioning,
has only part of a dashboard. She curses the police
that swerve like bees between the cars
as we shudder up the mountain. Late now,
the shanties of Catia shine like a thousand birthday cakes
Across both sides of the valley. The taxista looks me over
and asks why I’m here. Soy poeta, I answer. I will write
about her people. She flashes a smile full of teeth and warns me
about AIDSㅡ”make sure she’s clean before you take her
to your room. Or wear a condon.” Her cousin died of El SIDA
only last year, scabbed with sores and stripped
to a skeleton. We pass through cavernous tunnels,
each ventilated by hulking turbines hung from the roof.
Sabana Grande is quiet when we arrive. The taxista
heaves my suitcase onto the sidewalk, holds out her hand.
Once paid, she winks. “Any time you want to write
poetry, you give me a call.” A phone number in my hand
and she is gone. All around me, frogs sing
in the hills. The air smells alive.