Strawberries in Mexico

At 14th Street and First Avenue
Is a bank and in the bank the sexiest teller of all time
Next to her the greatest thing about today
Is today itself
Through which I go up
To buy books

They float by under a bluer sky
The girls uptown
Quiet, pampered
The sum of all that's terrible in women
And much of the best

And the old men go by holding small packages
In a trance
So rich even they can't believe it

I think it's a red, white, and blue letter day for them too
You see, Con Ed's smokestacks are beautiful
The way Queens is
And horses: from a pleasant distance

Or a fleet of turkeys
Stuffed in a spotless window
In two days they'll be sweating in ovens
Thinking, "How did I ever get in a fix like this?"

Light pouring over buildings far away

Up here when someone shouts "Hey!"
In the street you know that they aren't going to kill you
They're yelling to a friend of theirs named Hey
John David Hey, perhaps

And the garbage goes out
In big white billowy plastic bags tied at the top
And even the people go out in them
Some are waiting now
At the bus stop (for a nonexistent bus)
And I thought it was garbage!
It's so pretty!

If you're classless or modern
You can have fun by
Walking into a high-class antique store
So the stately old snob at the desk will ask
In eternity
"You're going where?"
You get to answer, "Up."

I like these old pricks
If you have an extra hair in the breeze
Their eyes pop out
And then recede way back
As if to say, "That person is on . . . dope!"
They're very correct

But they're not in my shoes
In front of a Dubuffet a circus that shines through
A window in a bright all-yellow building
The window is my eye
And Frank O'Hara is the building
I'm thinking about him like mad today
(As anyone familiar with his poetry will tell)
And about the way Madison Avenue really
Does go to heaven
And turns around and comes back, disappointed

Because up here you can look down on the janitor
Or pity him

And rent a cloud-colored Bentley and
Architecture's so wonderful!
Why don't I notice it more often?
And the young girls and boys but especially the young girls
Are drifting away from school
In blue and white wool
Wrapped in fur

Are they French? They're speaking French!
And they aren't looking for things to throw
Skirts sliding up the legs of girls who can't keep from grinning
Under beautiful soft brown American eyes
At the whole world
Which includes their Plain Jane girlfriends
She even smiled at me!
I have about as much chance of fucking her as the girl at the bank
But I stride along, a terrifying god
A little one-day-old beard
And good grief I really did forget to brush my teeth this morning
They're turning red with embarrassment
Or is that blood
I've been drinking—I ordered a black coffee

And then a black policeman comes in
Unbuttoning his uniform at the warmish soda fountain
While I pull the fleece over my teeth
And stare innocently at the books I've bought
One a book with a drawing
By Apollinaire called Les Fraises au Mexique
Strawberries in Mexico
But when I open the book to that page
It's just a very blue sky I'm looking at

Ron Padgett, "Strawberries in Mexico" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2013 by Ron Padgett.  Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.
Source: Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013)
More Poems by Ron Padgett