outside Naples
train station
voyuers' sleight
of hand
pickpockets
at leisure
scam your
senses for
an ideal
translation
where you
jerk the body
ungracefully
exit to watch
for illicit
cultural exchanges
making inhospitality
barter back
the body odor
you sweat as fear
from where you
commit your intial
act as tourist

     

Father's Day — Arequipa, Peru

flores!    flores!    flores!
gaseosas!    gaseosas!
paraguas!

whispered someone's grandmother selling
to the faithful entering
the cemetery of fertile ash
volcanic remnants of El Misti's ruminations
that once fired the sky in a homage
to pagan mortality

a widow dancing around the grave
in a swirl of memories
when a husband's devotion
came to blossom romance
before bearing children
now she returns
weathered and arranging
flowers around the grave
of anointed fathers
dead and living ones
entrenched in family obligations

a stick to loosen weeds
around the grave marker
the eternal home
a debris of auras
of individual iniquities
rooted in cultural epitaphs
cleaning off earth's backwash
mourning through inebriation
fermented corn chicha
roasted guinea pig
respectfully offered
for another year
until ancestors whisper

     

Last Journal Entry

my eyes
dreamed
gleaming your eyes
blinked
soft purrs
you peaked in the night
when I left my monument
in the side of your sleep
then surmised another dream
on a departure
that scattered you
across the globe
seeking small favors
from roaming rancid acquaintances
the calibration of your voice
a shut eyelid
and a cigarette burning
a sunset haze
in my powder keg
of misery

     

Monja Blanca

there are ways
of getting into
the Itza Peten jungle
for this trip
the White Nun
is a chicken bus
running a malaria quarantine

possible other routes
not logical without
mind tripping velocity
where the bus stops
at the El Paso Texas hotel
for pollo frito
and Gallo cerveza
twisting highland curves
dizzy into arroyo
a glimpse of Guatemala’s orchid
la monja blanca
thriving in humidity
on terraced hillside farms

at all intersections
drop off pick up
sign posts and flashbacks
there is a delay
crossing the river
at slothy Sayaxche
on a make-shift
wooden ferry
traveling towards
yesterdays deadlines
without proper
inoculations or
Quechuan tongue
on native species
any access to Tikal
palaces and temples
loom further away
than when the journey
looked auspices
from an aerial view
flipping maps in an atlas

     

Travelers

still thought to be wandering some country
though apparitions of them
came up at local air and rail hubs
baggage that looked like theirs
was always claimed by some
unassuming child or elderly person
whom everyone wanted to help.

In their rush to get out of the public
lines and tasks that pretend
at being good citizenry
voyeurs can spot one another
threading the imagination
in-between unspoken dialects.

No matter where the stares burn
returning peaked and buoyant
for it feels vacant to rush
back to the same routines
one might begin to animate
an account of being alone
on the periphery of sound
or how one assimilated intrigue
with the aristocracy and juvenile
quite possible with today’s
archaeological sites plundered
by foreign exchange rates.

Michael Berton has had poems appear in Shot Glass Journal, Fourteen Hills, Gargoyle, Pacific Review, Yellow Medicine Review, 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar, Volt, And/Or, Indefinite Space, Blaze Vox, and others. He lives in Portland, OR.