The stray dogs bite. There’s glass in the sand, too worn to cut a toe. A toddler giggles running from her family toward the waves. They urge her back. On the beach road, I can’t tell if the sound of a car approaching from behind is the surf until headlights flash. The gate of the abandoned school for “incapacitados” is chained shut, has been for months, sargassum and plastic washing under. Classroom walls of cracked concrete. Graffiti on graffiti. A phantom yell of gringo! Spitting rain. It will pour any minute. Then it doesn’t. The yacht club sells pizzas to expats but no one is hungry tonight. Wind scatters plastic chairs around tables as if customers were full and anxious to get home, then as if the patio were raided by stray dogs. Each palm tree has a personal hair dryer. The expats, like stray dogs, growl at newcomers, bark at each other into the night. The expats feed the stray dogs. Cheapest alarm system I ever had, says one to another. A pack gathers in front of his second home like hyenas, vicious, grinning. Testicles, teats, purpled, withered fruit clinging to the vine. They shit where they want. A passerby steps in it, curses. A passerby kicks out but we see who is really afraid. A passing car accelerates, achieves revenge. The corpse of a stray dog in a ditch stinking until it won’t anymore. Expats think the pandemic a hoax or conspiracy initiated by Jews. The expats are assholes, says an expat, but they are old. They die quick. One, on his moto, was run over by a microbus last week. He exploded like a McDonalds ketchup package.
I speak to a loved one on the phone. She insists, there is something you’re not telling me. Twists and flecks of iridium, extraterrestrial metal, shocked quartz and glass beads discovered in the rock core. Water-winged children hurling themselves into cenotes, earth’s empty eye sockets, prehispanic graveyards, skeletons fished out from 100 meters deep, bats zig-zagging over water underground. I’m alone in the port city of Progreso. Chicxclub, site of climate disruption, mass extinction, ancient rerouting of life. A meteor with the power of 1,000 atomic bombs. We won’t give the universe time for another go. A seagull missing a foot lands near my dinner, gingerly using the stump for balance, swaying more than usual in the breeze. A flamingo limping across a salty lake. A stray dog hopping. An ex-pat in a wheelchair. Landmine in Afghanistan. Crowded hovels with no running water inland. Abandoned mansions on the coast. Mold, erosion, dilapidation. A hurricane isn’t at fault. The money ran out or virus. Crackling bass and reggaetón and shouts from inside one shell of a building that isn’t theirs, the windows boarded up and papered over. From the terrace three floors up a young Mexican points to the liter of beer in his hand and yells, ¡Súbate, Güero! I pass through a door with a busted lock.
3. A group of 20-somethings chugging beer around an empty pool. Racing to inebriation. Pulling ahead in the race to elude annihilation. Assembled from various regions of Mexico, here to construct a suburbia of sorts outside the port city, an international village. They pass me a joint, I bum them English cigarettes too expensive for Mexico. They push a phone with a PowerPoint presentation in front of me. Condos with rooftop gardens, windmills, and solar panels resembling Mayan pyramids constructed over the ruins of Mayan pyramids long ago chewed, swallowed, and still being digested by jungle. Graphene super metal and recycled plastics. Bubble tech and defoaming. Optimum insulation and acoustics, less CO2 release. Jargon, gospel, babble of sustainability. New lingo for the industry, the lexicon, the public imagination. Off the grid. Supposedly free from the control and corruption of government, of cartels. I say it sounds like a cult and an interior designer giggles wiggling her pointer finger up and down, says sí, sí, como Charley Manson. Voice automated everything—your entertainment, your coffee pot, your bidet. All-inclusive. More amenities promised than a liberal arts college. A Burger King. Probably a mini-Target. The promise of consumerism preserved amid the crash of exterior markets. Top priority: Security. AK-47s, M-16s, Uzis. Bulletproof vests and jackets that look like you’re going to church or brunch. Fences with barbed wire as tall as border walls. Here in the shell of an ex-expat’s vacation home the other American dream of the gated community lifted, romanticized, enhanced. Ultra-militarized. Elon Musk might support the project, claims an energy specialist. Living there will be like working for Google, boasts the jungle rave DJ. There is opportunity in crisis, they add. They have acquired the land. Started construction. Convinced expats to invest, possibly retire there. I jokingly ask the CEO, Who will be eaten first when the apocalypse comes? He nods toward a stray dog eying us from below and as serious as climate change says, could be any of us.
Dustin King teaches Spanish and runs a small organization that provides aide to undocumented community in Richmond, Va. His poems appear in Blood and Bourbon, Ligeia, Tilted House, Drunk Monkey and other magazines. He most recently made the longlist in the 2021 UK national poetry competition.
This poem is from South Broadway Press’ new anthology, Dwell: Poems About Home.Purchase here.