The Famous Umbrella of Madeira


a tantalizing shape  
over there 
under the bananas
an umbrella 
we crane our necks
peering through the bus windows
 
a stone monument
a domestic relic,  
fallen from pride of place
protection, generosity, a metaphor
for all homes, come enter under the
umbrella  
 
what a lovely symbol a
tradition of this ancient place

will we find miniature
umbrellas in the 
gift store down the road
perhaps a post card
explaining the legend of the umbrella
or an old song about family
the sun’s glare 
the weeping sky
a poster featuring
lithesome natives
brandishing unfurled umbrellas
 
aprons, towels and toothpick holders
scalloped - painted handles.   
tee shirts in classic umbrella colors
or flag colors of the conquering country.
ah, the umbrella
 
the guide cranes her head to where we point
that?
that is just trash.   

Inspiration:  An umbrella and a long bus ride

This poem came from a bus ride up to the top cool peak of Madeira, an island off the coast of Portugal.  It serves as the British and German Hawaii.  Come down for a week to your timeshare, acquire a horribly painful looking sunburn on purpose and fly home. I was there for just a few days.  I did not get sunburned.  

After a week or so traveling through a foreign country,  you start to get a little bleary. Whatever a guide says, you just believe because it’s easier than asking questions or once again experiencing the frustration of a single bar on your phone and even if you could get a signal the overseas data plan is rapidly draining towards ruinous additional fees.  Even a facebook post costs enormous amounts of data allotment.

Which by the time we post this may be changing. I hope so.

With 10% left on the battery, and even though a  Google search would deliver critical clarification, it is too much hassle. 

So you just believe.  

It’s easier.

Billboard

 
billboard
posted just outside
Cochin India
Get Away to Paris
Where Romance is in the Air


there is most certainly
its twin
posted on the curved Metro wall
Come to Colorful India
Where Romance
Is in our very Air.

Inspiration:  Freeway billboard

Wherever we are, there is somewhere else we want to go.  As we drove up from Cochin to Mumbai,  I was struck by the language on billboard advertising a romantic trip to Paris looming over the many lane freeway.  And I knew, without a shadow of a doubt that there was a twin somewhere in the metro in Paris assuring the commuter that better, more romantic days could be found in India.

Even though the reader LIVES in one of the most romantic cities in the world. 

But daily life is so different from vacationing.

I try to remember this as I recklessly fall in love with another city, another country.  I love the old elegant buildings leaning into each other, the street access, the hills, the stairs.

I forget the poor plumbing,  hauling groceries and briefcases up five flights.  Spotty internet.  No attached garage. Street parking.

What is charming and picturesque while on vacation, can be read as annoying, shabby and a neighborhood nuisance in real life.

We want to go, we want to stay, we don’t know what we want.

So we keep traveling as if we can’t help it.

Maui’s Fish Hook

Travel + Inspiration = Poetry

God arrives wearing tight black boots.

building churches that belie

the real gods the gods of the rain, wind and fire.

how can Jesus compete against Pele?

did he bring the fire?

just rules and approbation 

the Christian god is harsh, died so you could

shape up and follow new incomprehensible rules

he triumphs, 

as terrible as a capricious dictator

but old gods have seen it all before

the new rules fade

worn shoes un replaced

 

new worshipers

money & planes

bare hopes of attracting native gods to smile

 a few days 

before they crawl back into the gloom of 

heels, ties and socks

placating their personal savior

begging him to allow their return.

Anyone not read Hawaii by James Michener?  It’s one of his better efforts and yes, it starts with grains of sand and volcano eruptions. Based on the history of missionaries in Hawaii specifically,   I am fascinated by the unintended consequences of doing good. There is no doubt in my mind that the missionaries who were sent away from the crowded farm or the failed college experiment were sincere.  But I also suspect that those who traveled far from home in order to “enlighten” or “help” the natives, were not very enlightened themselves.

I appreciated the stories about the Viking settlers in Greenland who starved because they refused to eat the local (and abundant) fish because the fish wasn’t what they normally ate.  Or the British soldiers who fell dead of heat exhaustion because they were required to maintain and wear uniforms built from layers of wool,  practical in Northern England, deadly in South India.  

When you are right – and if you are spreading the awesome and correct word of god so you are right – everything you do must be right: Your food, your dress your architecture.  And you would rather die than adopt anything remotely local.  And you did. Die.

Begging the question, do you want to be right?  Or do you want to win.

Cue the Jesuits who did a much better job of the whole enterprise.

God arrives wearing tight black boots. building churches that belie the real gods the gods of the rain, wind and fire. how can Jesus compete against Pele? did he bring the fire? or just rules and approbation the Christian god is harsh, died so you could shape up and follow new incomprehensible rules he triumphs, as terrible as a capricious dictator but old gods have seen it all before the new rules fade worn shoes un replaced new worshipers money and planes bare hopes of attracting native gods to smile a few days before they crawl back into the gloom of heels, ties and socks placating their personal savior begging him to allow their return. Anyone not read Hawaii by James Michener? It’s one of his better efforts and yes, it starts with grains of sand and volcano eruptions. Based on the history of missionaries in Hawaii specifically, I am fascinated by the untended consequences of doing good. There is no doubt in my mind that the missionaries who were sent away from the crowded farm or the failed college experiment, were sincere. But I also suspect that those who traveled far from home in order to “enlighten” or “help” the natives, were not very enlightened themselves. I appreciated the stories about the Viking settlers in Greenland who starved because they refused to eat the local (and abundant) fish because the fish wasn’t what they normally ate. Or the British soldiers who fell dead of heat exhaustion because they were required to maintain and wear uniforms built from layers of wool, practical in Northern England, deadly in South India. When you are right – and if you are spreading the awesome and correct word of god so you are right – everything you do must be right: Your food, your dress your architecture. And you would rather die than adopt anything remotely local. And you did. Die. Begging the question, do you want to be right? Or do you want to win? Cue the Jesuits who did a much better job of the whole enterprise.