The Sunday Poem: Levi Romero... One Last Cruise, Taos Plaza

Of all the poems Levi has written, I asked for this one. It is as iconic a piece of writing about New Mexico as there is. Read it and smile. Here's to Taos Plaza: to the low-riders, the tourists, the young ladies in their mini-faldas. Here's to cruising through all those yesterdays.

And no matter how many the years, how far removed, or how long the distance from the road once traveled, what it is still is, because it was, because we were, because we still are, at heart, cruisers cruising through the homeland. So no matter how much things change, that which gave us life, sustained us, will always be with us, here, aqui- en el pecho, en el corazon!

Levi Romero is the author of “A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works,” UNM Press, and “In the Gathering of Silence,” West End Press. He is from the Embudo Valley of northern New Mexico and is a Research Scholar at the University of New Mexico’s School of Architecture and Planning program focusing on cultural landscape studies.

One Last Cruise,
Taos Plaza

this morning I decided
to throw one more cruise
through the plaza

en memoria de primo Bill
y de los resolaneros de aquellos tiempos

those men who had found their circle
come together
in the presence of
each other

like everything else around here
it seems all is become memory

some Saturday mornings
my father would make the 20 mile trip
into town

we'd park at the Cantu Furniture
parking lot that sits atop
the old 7-11 building
off Paseo del Pueblo Sur

it was exciting for me then
as a small boy
to know that our car
was moving across the roof
of the store below

and now, I still find it amusing,
how did that sort of engineering feat
arrive in Taos?

the other evening
I pulled into that same parking lot
and for a brief moment
contemplated leaving my truck there,
but for the sign that read

Customer Parking Only
All Others Towed Away!

this morning
as I cruised into the plaza
I saw one lone, recognizable,
living, remnant, figure
standing in faded jeans
white t-shirt, Converse canvas Allstars
and a bundle of newspapers
strapped around his shoulder

it was el Paulie
flat-topped, square-jawed
and looking 30 years ago
still the same

but, where were you primo Bill?

the park benches deserted
the covered portals no longer bursting
with children clinging to their mother’s shopping stride

mama's strolling elegant
black hair curled
red lip-stick
the purse and coat
was it that Jackie Kennedy period
or was it Connie Francis?

I look out at the parque
los callejoncitos, las sombritas
! nada!
¿qué paso con la palomia,
con los Indios envueltos en sus frezadas?
¿qué paso con la mini-falda?

I reach for the radio knob
and I crank up Santana

I let the sound of the timbales

the vacant hollowness of memory
against the plaza's deserted facade

against the songbird’s mournful eulogy

I notice a group of tourists
congregating next to where the old Army Surplus
used to be

I look
don't look
I look again

they pretend not to

I let off the gas pedal
and cruise in slowly

I lean back
into the seat, lowdown
and make myself comfortable
controlling the steering wheel
with one finger

here's one for the ol' times, baby!

¡dale vuelo!

I remember cruising through the plaza
as a teenager with the Luna brothers, Pedro and Rupert

I remember Rupert
bad-ass Califa’s loco
coming out to spend time with his grandparents
whenever he was wanted by the law back in Madera
I remember him
leaning far back into the seat of that black '67 chevy
sporting spit-shined calcos with one leg up on the dashboard
and finger-snappin’ time to War tunes on the 8-track stereo

his locura, cocky and loud
estilo California, nothin' like Nuevo's
quiet and proud
back then Taosie wasn't a lowriding town
chale, low Impalas came from Espa'
I remember Rupert blurting out the window
to some Taoseño dudes staring us out

"whatcha lookin' at, ese
we're just lowriding!"

well, I remember those times
being mostly like that
the predictable unknown, lurking
waiting around like some badass dude
leaning back with one bent leg up against the wall

and somehow we'd slip through each incident
acting like it hadn't mattered whether we would or not

this morning
the people hanging out
by the coffee shop
laugh and languish

their carefree tourist manner void of history, of memory
neither attachment nor sentiment to time and place
no scars as enduring testaments
to the questions posed, the answers given

a young girl stretches out
against the oncoming morning
her breasts
her form
that figure

¡mmm, gringa!

what am I thinking?

I'm the writing instructor
of this summer's poetry class!

I can't think
this way

but hell,
I pull my shoulder back
turn my head
and stare

mmm, baby, baby!

at the stop light
a young vato
long hair
and a pony tail

looks at me
the riff
he knows the movida
a tight smile forms across his mouth

Oye Como Va
Mi Ritmo

!bongo, boom, da!
Mi Ritmo!
tssssssssss_______ !!

for you, carnal!

one last cruise
the plaza

--Levi Romero
“A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works,” UNM Press

Views: 634

Comment by Margaret Randall on May 9, 2010 at 7:47am
Great poem! I love these poems that evoke childhood, even when it isn't my childhood... and that image of the car driving over the roof of the store below... just the sort of thing that would stick in a kid's mind. I too remember Taos as it used to be, and this poem has brought up many of my own memories. Go, Levi!
Comment by cc on May 9, 2010 at 8:08am
Thanks for taking the time to type this one in. You are absolutely right, DitchRider, so enjoyable. I dearly appreciate Levi's capturing of the ritmos of su mente - the rhythms of his thinking - on his lines. Long live la memoria!!
Comment by cathyray on May 9, 2010 at 1:28pm
love it!
Comment by bg on May 9, 2010 at 3:33pm
That vein, the brotherhood of the poetry, it pumps.

Thank you Levi y Ditchrider.
Comment by Cindy Sylvester on May 10, 2010 at 8:20am
Gave me goosebumps this windy May morning. Thanks.
Comment by JeSais on May 10, 2010 at 12:16pm
ahhhh.. .heard Levi give a reading at Bookworks. too bad this isn't audio, because to hear him read aloud adds a whole 'nother layer to this poem
Comment by lisa gill on May 12, 2010 at 9:08am
love this... always glad to hear from Levi's work and catch which poet you're featuring...


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