Vizcaya

It is a dark world but there are lights.

The Barge is drowning.
The smiles of mermaids
cloud into frowns.

In a pale sky,
a storm appears
blue and irrepellent.

There were your knees then,
how they’d bend, myocitic-red,
sharp in youth.

There are dangers in the air:
Tropical daggers of death
fly into our light.
Old paint of Renaissance art
peels from renovated walls
like a warning.
The storm tides purple
Into these clouds.

Down the walking path,
the white marble statues of Greek gods
Leda and the Swan, Adonis, Minerva,
pose in robes, chiseled by the elements,
decapitated by hurricanes, rain, humidity
and tides.

I go there to hide.

Behind these pantomimes of romance and time.
Their toned limbs are mythological stone tombs.

I go there to hide.

Their faces still as ghosts call to me.
immortally posed in a labyrinth garden
under a canopy of Mangrove crones
blanc with a vision of
one hundred years
of solitude.

I go there to hide
from the overwhelming pressure of traffic,
suffocating us into extinction.

Did you wear red when you died?
Where you worried the clock
would not catch-up, ticking, ticking like a beetle?

No one was in garden. No one knew.
We blew smoke outside the tea room
as if it were ours
and we lived there.

We walked out to the gazebos
by the bay under the moonlight.
We imagined what it must have been like
so long ago out here in darkness.
We imagined what it must have been like
when the sea level was two inches lower.

The event was called: “A Lexicon for Climate Change.”
The panel discussed climate change.
A marine biologist from UM reminded the attendees
that eating animals is a leading cause of environmental degradation.

We kill the earth. We kill her children. We kill ourselves.
The flesh of suffering beings sickness the atmosphere.
Their suffering has angered the sea.
It is murky. It is sick. Sick in love with dead tides.

The lexicon, words to capture a meaning,
includes “grief, sadness, denial.”

We come to imagine what it will be like
when sea level is two inches higher.

The panel concludes that in a four decades
Miami will be underwater.

We serve the products of death. We consume suffering we do not need.
We are healthier green. We serve our own extinction.
Denial. It is a psychological condition.
Grief. It is my cheating lover.

Vizcaya is a story within a story filled with imaginary beings.
The statue of Bel Vizcaya, a fictional conquistador,
stands opposite to Ponce de Leon at the prelude gates.

The next chapter is underwater.

Drag-queens dressed as
turquoise mermaids will sing us sad songs
and weep siren lullabies
as we sleep in a castle by the sea
where no human voices will wake us
till we drown under a blanket of stars.


At Matheson Hammock Park

for David

I.
Barefoot brides,
still maidens, are photographed
on man-made sandbars,
smooth as bellies.

At the thrusting of coming waves,
they soar to greater heights–
wild seabirds in flight.

Their white satin wings spread
open like legs, wet
with the salty froth of desire.

They are so in love with
the water’s surface,
reflecting an illusion,
that they do not mind
the inconsistencies of tides
when the sun and moon collide.

But all along the coast,
The stench of rotten seaweed
Emanates a reminder:
The moon has no mercy
And the sea is sick here, sick
in love with her tides.

II.
By 2050, Florida sea levels
are projected to rise by 13 inches.
Many areas of coastal land will be underwater.

This is how we measure what can’t yet be seen:
plastic bags, bottles, and fast food wrappers littered
along the artificial beaches,
the tortured ghosts of barbecued flesh,
smoking ashes from dirty grills.

Swamped mangroves exposing
their bony, twisted barks,
half-submerged yet poised
between roughness of rocks and fluidity of tides.

Layers of sickened seaweed,
light brown with sulfur, poison
the adulterated air
along the murky coast.

III.
An article published recently in the peer-reviewed Journal of Coastal Research, shows that sea-level rise has pushed mangroves into a westward “death march” and that without coastal mangroves, Floridians should prepare for even worse storm surges and coastal flooding.

IV.
During low tide,
we jogged down the paved trail
through the preserved forest
of naked and crooked limbs.

We saw a sign at the trail’s
entrance, warning visitors
that the path gets submerged
in high tide.
But, we went anyways.

The mangroves
were raw with bruises from
the beating of the bay.
Mounds of damp mud,
where sea creatures once lived,
covered their joints.

Spiders haunted the sites.
Their enormous webs,
thinner than light,
glittered in the sun,
and swayed like silk shreds
still attached to the bones
Of exhumed corpses.

Intermittent and scattered–
they danced with sunbeams
between the branches’
open, directionless leaves.

V.
No one was around.
But I wasn’t worried.
Even as the bay began
slipping into puddles
through my sneakers.

I thought we could beat it,
if we ran faster,
faster than the fluid of life
rushing in through tiny holes
in the dirt, rushing in through my bones.

I thought we were almost
at the edge of this stink-filled
spit of earth.

I wanted to go to the edge.
I wanted to witness the water
rushing in from its four jagged corners
those giant red claws,
clenched and waiting

But you insisted,
that we get off the path.
Nature has no mercy.

So we hit the elevated road,
the main street
where pickup trucks
pull boats into the marina,
where the dead body
of a young woman
was found floating
in alcohol, boats and night.

I wanted to go to the edge.
I insisted. I had not come this far
to miss the sight.

You hesitated,
but were happy to follow the wind
in my black hair,
and the knowing in my hazel eyes.

We found only ourselves
Looking out into that buoyant
Great blue distance,
the distance that comes closer every day,
threatening to devour our existence.


Monica Torres is a Cuban-born Miami-raised poet, singer, artist, and writer. She is the editor of Miami Chronicles. She received a BA in English from FIU, an MFA in Poetry from Converse College, where she completed her first manuscript Moon Over Miami, which includes “At Matheson Hammock Park,” and “Vizcaya.” She is also currently completing an MFA in nonfiction from Bay Path University. She loves cats, open mics, and yoga.