Vinni Marie D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.


Text Box:

by Vinni Marie D'Ambrosio, in Pivot

The Blue-Ringed Tower in El Centro, CA

for Linda Lopez McAlister


I left for El Centro

in the month of January, when

the gulls were chunking eels

in Sheepshead Bay.


The first hours in the deep

Imperial Valley stood brilliant

on corundum, emery, quartz.

I awoke the second day

to an adobe garden, was enchanted

by wrought-iron and roses

and the smooth trunk

of a palo verde. Soon

a hummingbird struck

the lush midair near a vine,

and with a yellow whirr scraped the space,


chopped out a niche,

flailed it wide enough

to vacuum-pack a small wooden saint

or (a later thought

when love had somewhat

shrunken me)

to be filled with the half-million poor

in nearby Mexicali

who were pinched dry by chollas


and might be held for an instant

in the hummingbird's hollow

as a nest-egg for a poem.




On my daily drive to Calexico,

I passed a broad tower

a hundred feet high,

banded near the top

with a blue painted ribbon.


The lower desert was drawing me,

but I resisted the dry immersion.




The turquoise-ringed tower

on one sleepy trip

became the knuckle

of a Mexican cacique

exiled in anger nine

foreign miles from home.


I gorged on the neighborhood's carne asada

cooked over fire in the fiery afternoon

in the tough shapes of iguana,

and I licked at beer

salty as the mineral world.




The tower then was a bride's thumb, dreamily

belted by dust and blue satin.


In the season when tons of carrots

were hauled from the Valley, and the sky

very dark, cattle feedlots silent,

I fought a minor earthquake,

noting at dawn

the long watery gleams

on the patio

at the pool's narrow end.




Whoever was it told me -

sotto voce -

that the tower was a cauldron,

that it burned elements

to remake deserts?

I saw a startling power

(speeding home one night)

as its blue-bricked fist

stretched towards a comet.


Wearing thick sneakers

as advised by the postcards in arcaded shops

I went down into the desert

the week it was "a carpet of bloom."

Although two or three spines ▸

pierced rubber and skin,

among whispered hisses

I hopped and pulled them out,

and my first gray coyote

flashed over the carpet

like the shadow of a moment's tree.




As for the tower, it wasn't a tower,

but a vat,

the biggest in the Valley;

through irrigant pipes it rained

on the fields,

and the owners of the nitrate plant

had hung the bracelet on it.


At Easter break, in Mexicali,

a beggar sang Canción Mixteca,

blind, grazed thin by the half-million:

"¡Qué lejos estoy del suelo donde he nacido!"

("How far the place where I was born!")

I bought the blue song,

and some stone rings for my mother and sister,

and a multiflowered tin-framed mirror.





Then I learned, at last, that high in the air

the robin's-egg circle

had been painted precisely at sea level.


And on the daily drive to Calexico

that blue bangle was a miracle,

caught on a post that was nailed deep

as my Datsun in the Valley,

a sapphire hoop

waiting to sail

straight east or south or west,

through caves below the mountains,

till it came to a perfect

skim on open water, always,

now, touching the foam

and never scooping so much as a drop

of the Baja Bay or Mexican Gulf

or Mediterranean or Indian Seas,


faithful to its path,

a delicate performance.

Copyright © 2008 by Vinni Marie D'Ambrosio

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