El Florida

I feel fortunate that my mother still lives in the same house where I grew up in Miami. I can still visit “my house” and travel back in time; I can “go home” whenever I want. Of course the physical appearance of the house–the furniture, drapes, etc., has changed throughout the years. But the feeling remains the same, especially in that one special room–The Florida Room–that was, and continues to be, the center of so many family memories.

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Not a study or a den, but El Florida
as my mother called it, a pretty name
for the room with the prettiest view
of the lipstick-red hibiscus puckered up
against the windows, the tepid breeze
laden with the brown-sugar scent
of loquats drifting in from the yard.

Not a sunroom, but where the sun
both rose and set, all day the shadows
of banana trees fan-dancing across
the floor, and if it rained, it rained
the loudest, like marbles plunking
across the roof under constant threat
of coconuts ready to fall from the sky.

Not a sitting room, but El Florida, where
I sat alone for hours with butterflies
frozen on the polyester curtains
and faces of Lladró figurines: sad angels,
clowns, and princesses with eyes glazed
blue and gray, gazing from behind
the glass doors of the wall cabinet.

Not a tv room, but where I watched
Creature Feature as a boy, clinging
to my brother, safe from vampires
in the same sofa where I fell in love
with Clint Eastwood and my Abuelo
watching westerns, or pitying women
crying in telenovelas with my Abuela.

Not a family room, but the room where
my father twirled his hair while listening
to eight-tracks of Elvis, read Nietzsche
and Kant a few months before he died,
where my mother learned to dance alone
as she swept, and I learned salsa pressed
against my Tía Julia’s enormous breasts.

At the edge of the city, in the company
of crickets, beside the empty clothesline,
telephone wires, and the moon, tonight
my life is an old friend sitting with me
not in the living room, but in the light
of El Florida, as quiet and necessary
as any star shining above it.