Sidewalk café, San Angel, Mexico City

Sams_photo_of_mandyby Mandy Macdonald25 Feb 2014

Few ordinary cars pass this way;
but clumsy Humvees edge and squeeze their way
around these narrow, ancient cobbled lanes
made for hooves and woven sandals.
The villas try to look aloof behind their sunset-painted walls
but the overweening bougainvillea is no respecter
of class or colour schemes, mocking impossibly blue doorframes
with puce, magenta, shocking pink.

This is an oasis: two or three quaint streets away
a torrent of traffic roars like a rebel army
along the Avenida Insurgentes Sur,
uncrossable canyon full of noise and dust-thick air.
Its ravines are slick with new glass and steel, dripping with neon, acronyms
and global brandnames – Banamex, AmEx, Bancomer,
Apple, MaxMara, Ferragamo –

but this café, shaded by jacarandas, cold-shoulders all that. Here,
waiters hover,
ready to pounce the moment any glass is empty, any ashtray full.
Solitary watching is permitted, if you’re a tourist.
Rich Coyoacán girls in their dizzying heels and tight, tight jeans
salsa by across a minefield of gaps and potholes,
the pavement their catwalk. Against probability,
they never fall over.

As the afternoon lengthens the dog-walkers come out:
scotties, skewbald spaniels, classy breeds with curly tails
jostle and frolic, tug at their leads,
escape, rush round the *plazuela*, in and out of the low box hedges,
the trees painted white waist-high, the glaucous blades of agave,
and go hysterical, chased by insurgent children.

The grackles, though, and the screeching green parrots on fly-past
through the purpling dusk, have seen it all before.