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Two Variations, poems by Jayne Marek

Two Variations

                   —for Hazel, 1951-2011

1. Conjunto

When I hear your name, Hazel, it is 1994,
you and I knee-deep in the Colorado River in Austin, Texas,
under the rock hollows at Barton Springs, both of us visitors
who met at the library and don’t have swimsuits
to take with us over lunchtime, under the July sun so rabid
we can’t stand to eat. We talk and talk,
your Australian accent telling of loneliness
from one continent to the next,
brown water billowing over our toes
like a thousand sentences to be read and written.
At evening, you drive us in your landlords’ Datsun
to a cantina where we order tacos and beer, both
the same temperature, because we are here for the conjunto music
you have never heard before. The Mexican quartet
knows everyone sitting at the patched tables
except us, so the men in silver-seamed pants
flourish their fingertips as they play through the favorites,
listeners’ feet shifting on soiled hardwood,
the sandals, the tennis shoes, the polished wingtips
of the older man, the red patent pumps of his lady
who leaps up, takes his hand, and the two smooth their dance
across the floor as all heads turn to follow them
and fans slog overhead, shifting scents of cerveza
and lime, green and tangy, over our greedy hands.

2.  No Stairway to Heaven

I dream of staircases that end in midair,
steps of gray composition tiles or faded wood, no railings,
where I wait at the abyss
not knowing how to go on.

Awake today, I remember Mexican pottery
with riotous blue and yellow petals painted
in bold strokes, filling the shops of the Texas street
where we browsed—the colors were happiness.

And we watched an old couple in plain street clothes,
in the cantina that summer night,
who danced seamlessly like two halves
of the same soul.

What I want to say is

I hope you had beauty in your mind as your eyes closed, Hazel,
unable to breathe, fearful of taking the empty step,
and remembered the tall young man,
your lover later that humid night,
every touch a streak of searing orange.

—by Jayne Marek

Bio: Jayne Marek’s poetry and art photos have appeared in publications such as New Mexico Review, Blast Furnace, Gravel, Lantern Journal, Siren, Spillway, Driftwood Bay, Tipton Poetry Journal, Isthmus, The Occasional Reader, Wisconsin Academy Review, and Windless Orchard and in several anthologies. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. She also has a chapbook and a co-authored book of poems, as well as articles and short fiction.