Dan Valentine – Mexican balada


So I’m sitting on the back veranda of the hostel here having my first cup of coffee and my first cough from a cigarette—it’s what I do best—when a guest here for relaxation and rest joins me. Best, guest, rest. Perfect internal rhymes and, so far, a perfect morning.

I tell her what I’ve been writing about for the past week or two or so and she says, off the top of her head: “The gays of our lives.”

Now, if that’s not the greatest title for a book on such a topic, I don’t know what is.

In the beginning, I was merely going to write about my gay-bashing. But night after night, culling through my mind subconsciously, I sit straight up in bed and say to myself, “Oh, yeah! The two gay guys the manager at Trevi Towers in Salt Lake found nude in the sauna!” Or: “The time I was called a poof by a Glasgow taxi driver when I didn’t tip him enough!” Or . . . well, the list gets longer every night.

I think I have a book whatever it’s called. But I’m going to think on it for awhile, a day or three.

So, last night, instead of writing another pink-cigarette-lighter piece, I put the finishing touches on a Mexican balada.

In English, of course. I took two years of Spanish in high school, but my mom did my homework. She had spent half of World War II in Chile, Peru, and Boliva. Her first husband was a mining engineer, and back then she spoke fluent Spanish. She wanted to prove to herself that she still had the skill. So, not only did she help me with my homework, she did my homework! As a result, she got an A, I got a D—which averaged out to a C. And I didn’t learn a goddamn thing.

I told my sister this once and she said our mom had done her homework, too. As a result, my mom got another A and my sis, she got a—I didn’t have to ask.

Neither of us can speak Spanish, though she can speak fluent Dutch after living in Amsterdam for some-forty years.

My brother couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, either, though he died in Malaga, Spain, the birthplace of Picasso.

But back to my Mexican balado—a sad, Spanish ballad, sometimes called a tearjerker. In the background, picture mariachis. More than anything else, I guess, it’s a concert/nightclub/theater piece.

*   *   *   *   *

ISN’T THAT THE DUMBEST THING?
By Daniel Valentine (c) 2010

I’ve total recall
Of the summer we met.
That fall and that Christmas
I’ll never forget.

And now, close to Easter,
With thoughts of that year—
Spring break all but here—
Reminiscing, as ev’ryone does,
I remember the spring
That never was.

I imagine a flight and a window seat,
Waves dancing below in the shimmering heat,
Cancun just beyond the wing.
ISN’T THAT THE DUMBEST THING?

Sometimes late at night,
Quarter past one or two,
I’ll smile on those seasons
So sweet, oh-too few.

But round about three-ish
Or four-ish, I find,
What creeps into mind,
Uninvited, when slighted hearts stir,
Are the four days, three nights
That never were.

I imagine a towel for two in the sun,
Our bodies so snug passersby swear we’re one
Whenever we closely cling.
ISN’T THAT THE DUMBEST THING?

Mescal to consume!
Spring break in full swing!
While friends toured the tomb
Of some Mayan king,
I sat alone in my room
By a phone that didn’t ring.

My folks are concerned,
As our others, because:
What good is obsessing
On what never what?

But spring’s here and lovers,
They stroll hand-in-hand,
Barefoot on white sand,
And I can’t help but think of back when.
I remember the spring
That might have been.

I imagine a kiss on a moonlit beach,
Each star in the sky within fingertip reach.
Nearby mariachis sing.
ISN’T THAT THE DUMBEST THING?
The god-damnedest dumbest thing?

(spoken:)
Cancun is a spring break paradise, attracting some
200,000 college students. The 16-mile long island is
located on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, between
the Caribbean Sea and the lovely Nichupte Lagoon and
boasts all a spring breaker could ever hope to die
for: beach volleyball, beautiful people, spectacular
sunsets, and lots of other fun stuff, too, like
tequila shots and celebrity sightings. And, though,
I have never been there, I hate the place like I
never hated any place on the face of the Earth
before.

(sung:)
Mescal to consume!
Spring break in full swing!
While friends toured the tomb
Of some Mayan king,
I sat alone in my room
By a phone that didn’t ring.

My folks are concerned,
As are others, because:
What good is obsessing
On what never was?

But spring’s here and lovers,
They stroll hand-in-hand,
Barefoot on white sand,
And I can’t help but think of back when.
I remember the spring
That might have been.

I imagine a flight and a window seat,
Waves dancing below in the shimmering heat,
Cancun just beyond the wing.
ISN’T THAT THE DUMBEST THING?
The god-damnedest dumbest thing?

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