BUENOS AIRES TAXI DRIVER
Dusk. Heavy traffic snorts and snarls.
Drooping with exhaustion,
I stagger blindly into the street --
risking life and limb to hail a taxi, any taxi.
I wait . . and wait . . . and at last a battered cab appears.
The driver, a handsome, bearded individual,
asks my destination as I open the car door.
When I tell him, he coolly names a fee
four times the going rate.
Numbly, I accept, I just want to get home!
As we wheel through the crowded streets, meter off,
I complain mildly of his piratical charge.
Shamelessly he explains he is a capitalist taxi driver
and as a true capitalist takes advantage of circumstances
“Don’t expect a tip,” I warn him crossly.
Buenos Aires drivers love to converse and he tells me
that women become more beautiful at night,
that for him Buenos Aires is a beautiful woman
who comes alive in the evening with her bright lights
and that is why he always drives his taxi after dark . . .
So I forgive him the exorbitant overcharge,
secretly delighted with this buccaneer taxi driver
who is inadvertently a fellow poet,
and as I close the cab door with a smile
he bids me a cheerful “Good evening!”
and clatters away.
poetryrepairs #241 17,10:113
Sophisticated, elegant – incredibly graceful skyscrapers rearing
in arrogant silhouette against smog-dimmed sky—
Buenos Aires insolently fakes First World splendor
in a Third World reality.
Port city of green parks and ornate fountains,
beautiful 19th century buildings, 17th century churches,
she delicately ignores those scrapheap collections
of desperate humanity clinging in poverty
around her outskirts,
the “villa miseries,” misery villages.
The original city was founded
beside the now-polluted sweet water sea
where two mighty rivers converge
to pour into the Atlantic Ocean two hundred miles downstream,
forming that rapidly flowing body of water
(in places one hundred miles wide)
the conquering Spaniards named “El Río de la Plata,”
“The Silver River.”
The water is a dull, muddy tan
and the observer wonders what the Spaniards were imbibing
to such imaginative excess at the naming
until one day when you are there
the sunlight hits at just the right angle
and the murky surface of the river is embroidered
with an infinity of tiny silver sequins.
A coaxing wind picks mischievously at the threads
to form glittering little wavelets,
and suddenly those bearded conquerors gain credence,
for here, indeed, is the “River of Silver.”
The destitution, the desperation, is not obvious at first:
the shop windows are filled with every kind of pretty toy
available in New York or Paris or London.
A taxi drives by every five minutes,
Although some of them might rob you if you take one;
public buses, each line sporting its own brightly painted design,
stop at their assigned posts and, like the taxis,
pick you up at the wave of your hand
(beware of pickpockets when you ride).
Air-conditioned trains to the suburbs leave on time
from a vaulted terminal built by the English in the early 1900’s –
*now resembling an archeological site in the throes of excavation.
The remodeling efforts have been underway for years now.
Ah, but it is the beggars of Buenos Aires
who most belie her myth of glorious prosperity!
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BUENOS AIRES TAXI DRIVER previously published in Wordfest Anthology 2016, Watco Cultural Arts Fest
2016 Botella al Mar Argentine poets