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The Sweetness of Searching and Finding

I can't let go of this poem. For a couple of weeks, I have considered posting it. Yet, nostalgic sadness would overwhelm me.

But, I came back one more time - why? Because this poem moves me. There is warmth, kindness, and familial love. Sometimes, in the act of remembering, there is a sweetness too rich to let go.

One of the most difficult parts of aging is accepting change. There are places I visited on family vacations that hold some of my most vivid, pleasant childhood memories. Some of these places don't exist anymore. Some have dramatically changed. There are family members who are gone, like the father in this poem.

And yet, as Pádraig Ó Tuama explains in the Poetry Unbound podcast:

"there was a moment in time when we were there and it was beautiful."

You can listen to the full Poetry Unbound podcast HERE

"Looking for The Gulf Motel"

Richard Blanco - 1968-

Marco Island, Florida

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

The Gulf Motel with mermaid lampposts

and ship's wheel in the lobby should still be

rising out of the sand like a cake decoration.

My brother and I should still be pretending

we don't know our parents, embarrassing us

as they roll the luggage cart past the front desk

loaded with our scruffy suitcases, two-dozen

loaves of Cuban bread, brown bags bulging

with enough mangos to last the entire week,

our espresso pot, the pressure cooker—and

a pork roast reeking garlic through the lobby.

All because we can't afford to eat out, not even

on vacation, only two hours from our home

in Miami, but far enough away to be thrilled

by whiter sands on the west coast of Florida,

where I should still be for the first time watching

the sun set instead of rise over the ocean.

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

My mother should still be in the kitchenette

of The Gulf Motel, her daisy sandals from Kmart

squeaking across the linoleum, still gorgeous

in her teal swimsuit and amber earrings

stirring a pot of arroz-con-pollo, adding sprinkles

of onion powder and dollops of tomato sauce.

My father should still be in a terrycloth jacket

smoking, clinking a glass of amber whiskey

in the sunset at the Gulf Motel, watching us

dive into the pool, two boys he'll never see

grow into men who will be proud of him.

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

My brother and I should still be playing Parcheesi,

my father should still be alive, slow dancing

with my mother on the sliding-glass balcony

of The Gulf Motel. No music, only the waves

keeping time, a song only their minds hear

ten-thousand nights back to their life in Cuba.

My mother's face should still be resting against

his bare chest like the moon resting on the sea,

the stars should still be turning around them.

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

My brother should still be thirteen, sneaking

rum in the bathroom, sculpting naked women

from sand. I should still be eight years old

dazzled by seashells and how many seconds

I hold my breath underwater—but I'm not.

I am thirty-eight, driving up Collier Boulevard,

looking for The Gulf Motel, for everything

that should still be, but isn't. I want to blame

the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach

and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away

with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want

to turn the golf courses back into mangroves,

I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was

and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.

This poem is from the Poetry Unbound project.

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