The Sunday Poem: Richard Oyama... Holiday in the Sun

The L.A. Times review of Mexico's Playa la Ropa begins, "a long sweep of sand with a great view of the sunset. Some lovely small hotels and restaurants nestle in the hills; palm groves edge the shoreline." Richard Oyama fills in the details. And what details! It is kind of like having Kandinsky draw you a map of how to get to the train station.

He was born in New York. He has a Master's degree in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He lives in Albuquerque.


Holiday in the Sun

Your blue linen shirt clings in sodden air
As the customs line like a sick worm shivers.
Taxis glisten in the immense dark.
The town in foreground flickers past in front of
The paper cutouts of coconut palms.
Nothing is as it was except the price of pan dulce.
In a room of granular light you go half-blind. The air
Conditioner rackets all night like a lockdown.
Small orange vials crowd the sidetable.
Not a thing will faze you no
Not even the shadows lengthening in corners
Or dull glittering teeth
Of lizardfish sailing across the ceiling.
The clock hand sidles as a spider in the brain.
At pale dawn pastel boats along the municipal beach are
Not quaint. A boy prods a swordfish in its thrashing.
In the sun-bleached plaza ice awaits its disappearance.
Drunks in la tienda de abarrotes lurch in
A sinister dance. She crosses arms over breasts.
You carry your bundle from la lavanderia. Sock sorting
And the idea of order grieves you. Even Playa la Ropa where
Like your dead father your unmoored body floats in the slow swells is
Nothing than a machine of muttering glass.


--Richard Oyama

Oyama added the following comment: "The title is borrowed from a song by The Sex Pistols. The lyrics include the following: 'A cheap holiday in other people’s misery . . . / I wanna go to the new Belsen.'"

The wonderful collage is from the journals of Nina Fonoroff, an experimental filmmaker and professor of media studies at UNM.

Views: 64

Tags: Oyama, poetry

Comment by Richard V on August 2, 2009 at 12:07pm
all i can think of after reading this is the eloquent feeling of terror it conveys. all the images are haunting, the language is lush and thick. oddly, it made me think of los angeles, a place i can visit but never return to live. of all the poems so far, this one will draw me back for additional reads. thanks, ditch. glad you're back. last week's glaring absence had me worried.
Comment by the hand model on August 2, 2009 at 2:44pm
great stuff, this.
Comment by Margaret Randall on August 5, 2009 at 6:04am
Yes, provokes fear but also holds the contours of a whole other culture, one only a poem like this one--or knowing that culture from the inside out--can convey. The art also works so well with the text, each make the other much more than the sum of its parts. Bravo! Glad to see the Ditch Rider back in the saddle...
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on October 19, 2009 at 8:46am
Richard, thx for saying hello "in there" to me at 516--I have met and spoken to your wife/gf? before, also,but seemed to be in my normal brain dead state (and why I have started reading first drafts at readings is something for me to ponder)-- I think I missed reading this in August--it is such a lovely bit of discomfort and observation--the "no-going-back kind of day"-- Your poem tugged me to the borders of my travels--interior and exterior. Please consider joining us for a Fixed & Free reading. No longer at the Bike Shop, we are meeting this month Oct 28, Wed nite at 6:30, at the large room behind Michael Thomas Coffee at The Source on SE Carlisle (half-way between one-ways and Gibson. Did you teach at Montoya a year ago? and have retired? Thanks for the poems--I will look for your book between Neruda and Pound.
Comment by Jim Brazell on December 25, 2009 at 12:18am

Mr. Obama Oyama, didn't realize you were a poet also! You were a fine teacher and I miss our class discussions. What a thought provoking poem you have created, encore. Call me an let's do lunch sometime. JB

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