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Poetry and Medicine
June 16, 2004

Montezuma's Revenge

JAMA. 2004;291(23):2795. doi:10.1001/jama.291.23.2795

What, after all, can be said
about the indelicate?
That it's a nasty business.
Mahi mahi under a palapa,
rice soaked in vanilla—
the rope bridge we crossed
to get from resort to culture
gave no sign of sickness.
What, after all, can be said
about revenge? That it is infectious.
I remember a sea the color of turquoise,
heavy birds with black feathers.
The waiter said,
We're out of chicken, I bring you pelican.
A slice of lime posed like a smile
on the lip of the largest glass I'd ever seen.
Bloated with pleasure, we walked the beach,
fended off vendors who only wanted
to feed their children.
Come here, spend your money,
one said to me. Quartz charms,
turquoise and silver, silver and malachite,
silver and onyx. Across the street,
scowling women hung their worn towels
like flags. The church, the Tequila Factory,
the darkness inside each shop
conveyed scents of musk,
wrinkled oranges, speckled bananas, cheap lipstick.
Was it the leg of a chicken
forgotten for hours at room temperature
or the nameless green pepper
that made our eyes tear, our throats beg
in another language
for the most essential element,
here where Montezuma still owns the water.

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