One Poem by Nick Vagnoni

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On Returning to Miami

Hot clatter and orange echo
in the airport taxi tunnel
and your thick air licks my eyelids
like a gecko.

I’ve missed your heavy weather,
your oblivious, fattened clouds,
chalky and purple at night,
rebroadcasting the sodium floodlights of
so many little league games across the county.

The freestyle and humidity in the cab comfort me,
but Miami, why should I believe you
when you tell me that all of these date palms decided
to grow in straight lines on the median strips,
piked symbols of hospitality?

Why should I believe you when you insist
that the tides would build these hotels if we left
them to their own devices,
that the moon would eventually coax from the sand
a steep driveway, a two-story slate fountain,
and three valets?

Why should I believe you, clipped and clean,
waxed of all your Spanish moss?

Someone says “Miamuh,”
and I wonder what you were then.

Your sky was here first,
and we chanced upon it like a naked bather—
a sky that doesn’t even know
we’re here, that we’re watching,
but we built a city toward it, clinging to it
like algae on the back of a sea cow,
subsisting on the promise of sunshine,
nicked and notched with buildings and roads,
a city at the bottom of an ocean of clouds
that pile up like dust rushing
from some other city collapsing far out at sea.

Now we slow our engines to a whisper once in a while
as we head west on the 836 at sunset,
a huge, lolling no-wake zone,
bobbing over the cluster of hospitals.
We spend too much time in our rear-views,
hoping you’ll breach and be with us.

Maybe your sky seems aloof because
everybody comes here to forget, or maybe
there just isn’t much to remember here

Maybe we secretly love
the way a storm wipes you clean.

Maybe we want a place blank,
amnesious and forgetting as the ocean
that only blinks back at us the colors we scatter upon it—
all pink and gold, but no gray.

Maybe you’ll remember us
when we’ve built enough, or
when we’ve thrown enough away.




Nick Vagnoni was born and raised in Key West, and currently teaches writing at Florida International University in Miami. He is the author of the chapbook Victual (Floating Wolf Quarterly, 2011), and co-author of Forager: A Subjective Guide to Miami’s Edible Plants (Jai-Alai Books, 2014).

Photo of Miami, Florida courtesy

At Sea is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.