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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
The where: I-95
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
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