Photo of a Man on Sunset Drive: 1914, 2008

By Richard Blanco b. 1968 Richard Blanco

Groundbreaking Ceremony, City of South Miami, Sunset Drive Improvements

And so it began: the earth torn, split open
by a dirt road cutting through palmettos
and wild tamarind trees defending the land
against the sun. Beside the road, a shack
leaning into the wind, on the wooden porch,
crates of avocados and limes, white chickens
pecking at the floor boards, and a man
under the shadow of his straw hat, staring
into the camera in 1914. He doesn't know
within a lifetime the unclaimed land behind
him will be cleared of scrub and sawgrass,
the soil will be turned, made to give back
what the farmers wish, their lonely houses
will stand acres apart from one another,
jailed behind the boughs of their orchards.
He'll never buy sugar at the general store,
mail love letters at the post office, or take
a train at the depot of the town that will rise
out of hundred-million years of coral rock
on promises of paradise. He'll never ride
a Model-T puttering down the dirt road
that will be paved over, stretch farther and
farther west into the horizon, reaching for
the setting sun after which it will be named.
He can't even begin to imagine the shadows
of buildings rising taller than the palm trees,
the street lights glowing like counterfeit stars
dotting the sky above the road, the thousands
who will take the road everyday, who'll also
call this place home less than a hundred years
after the photograph of him hanging today
in City Hall as testament. He'll never meet
me, the engineer hired to transform the road
again, bring back tree shadows and birdsongs,
build another promise of another paradise
meant to last another forever. He'll never see
me, the poet standing before him, trying
to read his mind across time, wondering if
he was thinking what I'm today, both of us
looking down the road that will stretch on
for years after I too disappear into a photo.

Richard Blanco, "Photo of a Man on Sunset Drive: 1914, 2008" from Place of Mind, published by Floating Wolf Quarterly. Copyright  © 2011 by Richard Blanco. Used with the permission of the author. www.floatingwolfquarterly.com

Source: Place of Mind (Floating Wolf Quarterly, 2011)

 Richard  Blanco

Biography

Richard Blanco was born in Madrid and immigrated to the United States as an infant with his Cuban-exile family. He was raised in Miami and earned a BS in civil engineering and MFA in creative writing from Florida International University. Blanco has been a practicing engineer, writer, and poet since 1991. His collections of poetry include City of a Hundred Fires (1998), which won the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize; Directions to . . .

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