January 2023


David Wiley

Letter to John Rueschhoff

Dear Friend,

Martes Gordo [Carnaval] is over but there is always a carnival in Vera Cruz, a Coney Island of the mind if nothing else.   We are living on another planet here which sometimes looks and feels like the old one; you see neon lights and trees and salt shakers;  you see the sun, and bricks and cement, you hear music and voices and car horns, you may feel hot or lazy or crazy or horny, just like the old planet.   But in the end you realize it's not the same one, no, it's as alien as Habashat and you are a baby, kicking and grasping, looking for something to hold on to.   If you don't hold on you'll float to the top, right out of the picture, because this is a submarine empire.   Even the Palacio Municipal looks like one of those little cerulean and white castles that people put in their aquariums for the disbelieving gold fish.  It also looks like a gigantic wedding cake.  Next to the Palacio is the cathedral, with an enormous Corona beer sign in the form of a golden crown resting on its shoulder next to the dome.

Veracruz is like other tropical sea ports: ageless, worldly, sensual and decadent.  It's tropic and therefore volatile.  The Mardi Gras here is totally different from the one in New Orleans, spontaneous and derived from the sources of nature.   La alegria really has no translation, here it's too well defined:  una casa de locos con visita del mar, as they call it, an insane asylum with a sea view.   And it's the sea view that makes everybody a little crazy in a generally harmless, histrionic way, like the lunatics in King of Hearts (who were the only sane ones in the movie).   The people of Veracruz are aware that in 1517 Cortez and his eleven ships appeared here in the harbor, fulfilling a prophecy and changing the world forever. Maybe the thought of that makes them a little crazy too.

As well as a place to dream, it's also a place to be alive in the world—attentive, responsive, understanding, creative, passionate, ebullient, etc.   Marimbas pounding in your head even while you're sleeping, just to keep up the rhythm, the canciones corridas, the comidas corridas, everything on and running together, an endless throb even if it's only the beat of a hammock swinging in the breeze.

I saw a ninety year old woman dancing around with two snow-white doves sitting on top of her head, clutching her tangled hair, content as they could be in spite of the crowds and the noise, "cooing and billing," as they say.


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David Wiley painter-poet: graduate of U. Kansas; studied at Mexico City College and with artist Ignacio Belen in Barcelona. Widely traveled, he exhibits throughout California and abroad. Wiley has published two volumes of poetry: Designs for a Utopian Zoo (1992) and The Face of Creation (1996). Since 2005, Wiley has received large mural commissions in Arizona, Mexico and California. Wiley is a longtime contributor to Scene4: paintings, poems, meditations on art, creative non-fiction.
To inquire about his paintings, click here.
For more of his paintings, poetry and writings, check the Archives.

©2023 David Wiley
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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