by Ricardo Pau-Llosa
Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, FL
It rose from mangrove, past canopy, screeches
of parrots hailing the clouds. Nothing human
but it for thirty miles or more.
Even then, only kin extravagances
tucked into savage coves: Deering’s Vizcaya
Palace by the sea or the nervous caramel
of the Miami News tower. No city yet
made real by drudgery and fear. A haggard dock,
its amblers free with smuggled rum.
No law but pleasure in the wilds. Inland,
surrounding the creamy Biltmore’s panic of styles—
Spanish Neoclassical Baroque Renaissance—
gondolas sprung along canals that snaked
between polo fields and golf courses.
The mounted rich hounded for foxes.
A small train chugged guests from the port
to our jazzy opera in the jungle. As it pulled city
toward its hems, it peopled forest
and drank the marsh, becoming a historical anomaly
instead of a human apparition in nature. Then
the Biltmore died for the first time.
Hushed, its foxes volleyed and mated in the moil
of suburban yards. The gondolas retreated into photographs,
as did the eleganti in nacreous breezes
and minty sips. War mended soldiers,
and peace drew a sheet over its face
for decades. When it flared its old
self—stucco flesh reswirled, velvets
reappointed—it could not pretend
that the huddled vanities of youth lingered.
The shepherd of a spirit’s age can now beacon
the files we call tradition for those who can
afford to live without memory.
The Gables foxes lounge around birdbaths,
steal the cat food in a lonely bowl, and otherwise
thug the gardens from opossum and raccoon.
They glance an airplane seeming set in the full
dish of moon, red blinking lights
jewelling the utensils of the tower’s antennae.
Published on March 4, 2015