Casa Babylon, Zicatela 2010


Night strikes the flint of dawn.
Tropical mornings come on fast;
no rosy-fingered foreplay here.

Alone in the bus station waiting-room,
eyes fixed on a plate-glass window of darkness,
I suddenly see the chain-link fence
and houses already announced by the cocks’ crowing.

When he stepped off that bus,
I stumbled into his rage
like those enormous black butterflies
that smack you blindly in the face.

Barbara Joan Schaffer.



A man past saving
And a girl looking
To be lost.

She with all her options
In a line.
He, a mere phantom
Of a future.

Not quite a waste
Of time this mating
Of mescal, kindness, and despair.

The band plays
Barefoot in the sand.
The girl departs.
The young, fair-haired drummer
Drops his sticks
Chasing her in another
Story of ruin.

Barbara Joan Schaffer.

A Sad Man, Nopala


Xalapa, Museo de Antropología


Incapable even of forming a thought,
I stood numb in the shower
tuned to the static, when
out of nowhere appeared
scientists or lab technicians,
white-gowned minions of the demiurge,
who happened to be making their erratic rounds.

They noticed I was wilting and transfused me with a substance
like Miracle-Gro or cocaine. I felt my spirit lift
and shrewdly asked for more.

It was, of course, just the brain doing its job. Yet it seemed an omen,
as if I had a destiny for which I was being kept, alive.

Barbara Joan Schaffer.



A cloud opens up
Plush labial petals
On its cave mouth.

Sunbeams strike
Like crusader knights
Or a division of warrior angels.
And the wind sails in
On golden blades.


From over the mountains
The cumulo-nimbus phalanx
Heads the storm bank
With the grayness of winter tanks.

Barbara Joan Schaffer.

Chacahua Cloud

Raicin New York


We were downstairs, in the nether world, dead.
Dead was like alive but easier.
No more Karmic consequences,
Just a gradual letting go
Before you reach oblivion.
I went first, found my own way.
Later came my son and his wife,
To whom I broke the news:
We’re all dead here, but it’s OK.
There are places to explore,
And courtesy-calls,
Not dull, but easier than above.
Really a rather graceful decline
Like retirement followed by
Assisted-living and then the room with the aquarium.

Barbara Joan Schaffer.



In Guatemala, in Panajachal:
the waiters are holding up the wall.
Saturday night, as good as it gets,
and half the tables are not full;
someone's just left without paying the bill.

Meanwhile, across the sea,
some time ago,
David, the cook, drinks the absenta
I trade him for a taste of his sauces
and what is left on the plates
of gigot and Florentine steaks.

Leo the waiter at El Olivo
brings home half-full bottles of Rioja
and Tonia rolls tobacco and kif
with Vivaldi's Four Seasons on the victrola.

Fortunately, we had the grace
to disappear without a trace,
and I'm as young as ever I was
wherever they are looking back.

Barbara Joan Schaffer.

Restaurant, Colotepec

Rain, Puerto Escondido


Straight-down, hard-on rain:
the palms barely flutter their fronds,
thunder paced like planes at LaGuardia -
I await the onset of yellow crabs.

The street overflows its banks:
it’s Sunday and old show tunes
spike the digital airwaves.
The palm trees pick up speed to louder claps.
The rain pauses,
the earth fairly hisses
I've Got Steam Heat.
I've Got Steam Heat.

The pavement flows and empties:
people emerge, my attention wanders.
Eventually the sun falls from sky to ocean

Barbara Joan Schaffer.



Reality usurped from a dream
left me speechless.
Not knowing my role
I missed the cues;
you drifted off into the fog.
Everyday the distance between
what I believe and what I know to be
widens as I dangle from jungly vines
and spider webs and leap
over drowning streams of intuition.
Lovers lost to madness,
fragments of a dream comparted,
brilliant shards of broken glass
showing through your eyes
like lightening without rain.
Then! Now! the startled entrance to a kiss.
Reality usurped from a dream.

Barbara Joan Schaffer.

Flying Saucer