National Poetry Month
5:22 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

#ThisIsWhere: The Week Of Traffic And Tattoos

 

White Street Pier in Key West.
Credit Mark Hedden

It is rare to see a new literary genre appear out of the ether. But that seems to have happened this week with what we're going to call Miami Traffic Jam Poetry.

During our second week of the #ThisIsWhere project, we have poems about tattoos, Chinese restaurants, pelicans, learning Haitian Creole, and the refugee experience. But three of the best poems were about the joys and perils (mostly perils) of the multi-laned blacktop experience. 
 

Maybe it's inspiration from WLRN's End of the Road project. Maybe it's as O, Miami's Scott Cunningham said: “One of the things you do as a poet is you write about the landscape around you. But I think the dilemma you have as a poet in contemporary Miami is that a lot of the landscape that you’re exposed to everyday is from your car.”
 

Either way, we're going to roll with it. Here are our top 10:
 

 

Handcrafted

By Jen Karetnick of Miami Shores

In the tattoo shop across the street

from Sports Authority at Midtown,

next to the bloke sucking down a Heineken

while looking over the shoulder

of the artist drawing on his friend’s calf

like a fisherman scaling his catch,

I separate myself from the buzz 

of the needle and pretend to a tolerance

of pain as if all nerve endings 

were commuted by the lies of a dictator. 

This is where I commemorate what I have lost

in colors far more honest than I remember.
 

The where: HandCrafted in Midtown Miami

 

Untitled

Israel Pagtalunan of Hollywood

This is where blood boils, where civility is lost

This is where horns honk like dissonant chords

Here, I am anyone but myself

 

This is where the Hulk rises from Bruce Banner

And Jekyll gives way to Hyde

 

This is the stop-and-go of Palmetto traffic

Where everyone seems too slow

 

We'd be nice and polite on any other day

But right now, I'm off to work

 

So get out of my f*cking way!
 

The where: Palmetto Expressway

 

Untitled

Beatriz Japson of Miami Beach

Push through the Lalique and stand beneath the Swarovski.

Surround yourself with Blake and smell the lilies.

The champagne's in the cart; the duck on the trolley.

This is hello/goodbye; yes/no; high/low.

This is our show.

A four letter word for eat.

This is where you filled in the blank.
 

The where: Mr Chow in Miami

 

International School Of Broward

by Juanita Cardona of Hialeah

Teachers that only speak French

Where I learned my first Creole words, Sak pase, map boule!

Friends from France, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Jamaica 

This is where I became myself

Small but cozy, sit under the tree talking among ourselves

Tears were shed, laughs were shared

Love was found in every corner, a corner that was beige

Were I ate my first crepe, spread with nutella or 

Sprinkled with white sugar. 

Hallways so small only two bodies can walk side by side

Watching the rays of sunshine coming through the window, distracting.

My cosmopolitan family.
 

The where: Northwest 75TH Avenue in Hollywood

 

Refuge

by Flor Santiesteban of Miami

Refugee. Take away the “e” and you get refuge.

For a near marielita like me, Miami is my refuge.

This is where my life began when I stepped into the caja china heat, its welcoming embrace waiting for me outside the door of Miami International Airport. 

A guajira born in el campo of Camaguey, Cuba. 

Bony, 11-year-old limbs clinging to the only possession mami was allowed to bring with her - a shabby and not so chic brown leather purse. 

This is where I was tormented in the 5th grade for adding the “e” and being an FOB. 

This is where, today, I sit in my living room and try explaining to mis ninas what 30 years of refuge means while the melodic “afilador” of the knife-sharpening truck wafts in through my front window, beckoning my dull blades.

This is where I sit, sipping my dark/no sugar café con leche. Dark/no sugar, just like me.

This is where. Miami. My refuge.
 

The where: Miami

 

Untitled

Neely Woodroffe of Miami

This is where

too much is never enough

and no one really falls in love.

 

This is where

palm trees rule the streets

and highways flow like,

the garbled Spanish we all know.

 

This is where

façades have become reality T.V.

and heaven forbid you speak the truth,

it could be the last thing you say 

 

This is where 

Silence is not an escape.
 

The where: Southwest 221st Street

 

Untitled

Alan Harbater of Sunrise

This is where the cops do fear to tread

with narrow shoulders they can't stop to read

the riot act for those who speed

 

So anything goes is the rule of this road

At 90 my small Chevy leaves the ground

when Escalades pass by at the speed of sound

 

I'll get through but I'm ill at ease

I just hope my knocking knees

don't jar loose the keys

of the Cobalt

 

Oh yeah. . . life in the fast lane

I-95.
 

The where: I-95

 

Untitled

by Omar Gonzalez of Miami

Build on rentals, churrascos, 

politics, mortgages, corruption, 

fritangas, malls and floods. 

We miss our people, our country but

this is where we feel at home. 

Del caribe, america sur y centro,

the worst drivers and traffic I know.

786, 305 and in between, 

we don't need tall buildings or crushing waves,

just some little grass for kids to play.

Miami suburbs, from west to south. 

From toughed to loved. 

We won't let you down, we will feed you, dream you 

and make you proud.
 

The where: South Florida suburbs

 

Tourist, Pass By

by Liz Alden of Key West

I see the ocean sun rise – 

This is where on the pier the sentinel 

pelican stares with a big glass eye 

waiting for the camera to click. 

 

His Association of Icons includes

restaurant toucans, sidewalk herons and far-off frigates. 

As for the Cuban cocks bred for fighting,

they don't need no Association

nor the lizards neither.

 

Pelican turns just a bit

so the sun glints on his thousand 

curved wing feathers.

He's so comical and so divine, I'm glad

his wide gaze includes me.

 

Soundless as an iguana,

he points out that he alone

hails from a native species.

He's still courteous although he knows 

I have no fish to offer.
 

The where: White Street Pier in Key West

 

Untitled

Reza Azar of Miami

This is where ninety percent.

Of blinkers are broken.

 

Even the blinkers of those.

Expensive Lexus's, Mercedes's and BMW's.

 

The well equipped police cars 

Also have have broken blinkers.

 

This is where everything is different

From the rest of the country.
 

The where: Miami-Dade

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