These days, we walk around Parque Juarez.
No, not walk around in Parque Juarez.
Just, walk around. The perimeter.
We circle the park, as you would circle a fishbowl.
It is a terrarium. A giant, bigger-than-life,
lush terrarium, redolent with memories
That flutter through our minds,
Like leaves falling from the trees, petals falling from lilies.
The low, red-capped wall, the yellow tape, the locked gates
All these things keep people out.
Now a days, Parque Juarez is only for the birds —
egrets, doves, crows, mockingbirds, woodpeckers.
We must be content to stare into their domain,
Remembering what Parque Juarez once was to us.
Long months ago, as the pandemic struck,
Crews were still refurbishing the century-old park.
She had grown threadbare from overuse, over-love.
But that work is done now.
The paths look fairytale beautiful.
Concrete posts, fountains, and fixtures are restored.
New basketball courts sit empty. Shiny, but idle.
Joyful voices, skidding sneakers, thudding baskets
Are misty memories
That settle like a thick fog on the courts,
Used only for a few weeks before the virus struck
And the park was emptied out.
Everywhere, lilies bloom and native plants fill spaces
With every expression of green.
Towering trees shade empty benches.
Empty kiosks sell only potential.
The corner where artists mounted their canvases
Feels sterile and lonely without them.
The gazebo shelters only samba-dancing ghosts.
Joggers and dog walkers circle the perimeter
All glance inward, into the terrarium.
Their memories are my memories
Of cooling walks, young lovers cuddled on
Half-hidden benches, songbirds, children gaily
Skipping down criss-crossing pathways
Ahead of smiling parents.
Zumba classes, dance lessons, musicians,
Tiny matadors training with oversized red capes.
Meanwhile, we watch crews sweep untrod paths
Of fallen leaves, clear brush from the deep drainage arroyos,
Empty leafy detritus from silent fountains,
Tend to flower gardens, and trim overly exuberant branches.
They are preparing for that day, the one we all know
Some day, the yellow tape will come down, the gates will open
Kisoks will sell candy, chicharrones, crafts and souveniers.
Artists will display inspirations fresh from quarantine.
Children will skip, lovers will cuddle, old men will read books.
Young girls in the gazebo will teach new dances to each other.
Young men and women will shoot hoops.
Abuelas will sit side-by-side-by-side, filling whole benches
With laughter, gossip, prayers, tsking at the young girls.
Some will just sit on shady benches with eyes closed,
Dogs at rest beside them,
And let memories take them back to when they were
Children and their children were children
Skipping through Parque Juarez.
The park heals and flourishes.
As we heal and fend off the virus.
In the early morning, we stalk its perimeter,
Circling slowly on the outside, looking in
At the world’s most beautiful terrarium.