New York native Diana Anhalt moved to Mexico when she was eight years old. She stayed there 60 years before moving back to the U.S. in 2010. She said, “I come from a long line of wanderers, people who roamed the length and breadth of Europe. Few, as far back as I can remember, have ever left their bones in the countries where they were born and, up until recently, I thought I wouldn’t either.”
Passager published a book of Diana Anhalt’s poems inspired by her life in Mexico, Because There Is No Return. Here are two of those poems.
The first, “Phyllis, Remember Chichen Itza?”
Our young legs swaying
above three inch stacked heels?
Asses proud in bleached denim?
False eyelashes fluttering beneath sunshades?
And our young guide, remember him,
one hand clamped to your elbow, one to mine,
escorting us like Mayan princesses
past masses of incised rock?
We praised him his dexterity, his wisdom.
He spoke only Mayan, didn’t understand—
but knew the course falling rocks take,
how to edge us past granite ledges.
He kicked pebbles wide of our path,
tossed sand where surfaces were worn
smooth to keep us from going the way
of those sacrificed virgins, plunging
into the sacred well, bodies weighted down
with amulets and golden armbands.
When our legs give out after years of climbing
pyramids, our feet scrabbling for traction
on slick stone, we’ll wonder: Now that we need him
where has he gone?
Here’s one more, “Passing Through Customs.”
Yes, I have something to declare, I tell the officer.
tucked into corners,
alongside hosiery. My bag’s overweight.
True, my sixty-year summer is bound to get wrinkled
And the words to the songs sung in cobblestoned plazas
Will fade with the taste of chili on my tongue,
Childhood-scented memories, sun drowsed afternoons.
Do I need to declare losses, estimate prices?
How to cram Spanish, sunlight, el danzon
into my carry-on and what will I do with the people,
the llamarada tree, smell of sun dried sheets,
sounds of rainy season hail outside my window?
Sorry lady, you can’t take them with you.
Haven’t you read the rules?
“Passing Through Customs” by Diana Anhalt.
Diana said, “There were times when, without the encouragement of others, I may well have slammed the door closed on poetry. But various people motivated me, taught me, filled my head with words. And for that, I am very grateful.”
So are we.
To buy Diana Anhalt’s book Because There Is No Return or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to passagerbooks.com.
You can also download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.
For Kendra, Mary, Christine, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.