Guillermo Filice Castro

An American Kiss

In casual greeting it’s elusive…

“Americans are cold,” Mother claims from another America south of Mexico.

But what did Dennis the hairdresser say, all those years ago? “People from your country must be cold,” he pronounced after I dodged yet another of his sexual advances. “Well at least we don’t lie about our age,” I replied based on the passport I’d found in the washer that morning.

Dennis had also advertised his living room as a second “bedroom.” I took it anyway.

My very first night there he trilled, “Wanna watch a video?” and popped in The Biggest One I Ever Saw when I got off a long distance call. A week later the VCR would be gone thanks to a burglar’s magic and answered prayers.

Mother sighs, “They don’t kiss as much as we do.”

(I was flattered by the harassment even if I hid in his bathroom.)

Sometimes my lips find air, or a taut equation of jawbone plus neck; imagine climbing to smooch Mount Rushmore.

“The European kiss!” an American acquaintance exclaimed while recoiling from the puckered menace of my visiting friend’s mouth who muttered, “What an asshole.”

Further pictures of awkward kissing come to mind. The way Father and I greeted. It entailed a rigid choreography of controlled forces to achieve the briefest of pecks on either cheek. (If only cranes could kiss; two cranes leaning into the other for a flash sideswipe at a construction site.)

He would not come to the airport to see me off.

The eve of my departure Dad held the umbrella as we crossed the street with his arm belted around my waist—a first and last. “Don’t trust anybody,” he advised at the bus stop.

(The other close contact was a slap at age five.)

“They hug a lot!”

(To mate birds touch their multi-purpose back orifices together; this is known as a cloacal kiss.)

“We hug too, Mom.”

Once, in front of her husband’s grave, she gripped my hand and she was so tiny and I, her somewhat embarrassed child.

And I remember the dab of butter Dad left on my cheek from the toast he ate thirty-five years ago.

Mom says, “Americans hug more. I see it in movies all the time”

“Yeah me too.”

…elusive, slippery, an understatement…

One more kiss, dear, begs the Blade Runner soundtrack.

A kiss is still a kiss, according to Casablanca.

I’m a sucker for it. Bésame mucho, please.

Ok skin—blood—tingle—are you all ready?

Here it comes.

The Neighbor

I see her almost every morning
In the unflattering green pants of her uniform
The silver badge states

“Immigration and Naturalization Service”
And the rising eagle in the shoulder patch
Screams something in Latin

And does this elevator ride
Of merely three floors feel eternal
Almost every morning

She drives off the lot in a withered Ford
And her one-eyed poodle settles
In the passenger seat

Without as much a peep out the window
As I dart next door to
My illegal gig in my regal blue

Lido Spa Hotel T-shirt
And what the hell was she doing
At the front desk last week? Who knows

One day she might be at the head
Or rather the tail (Lady is clearly
Pushing retirement age)

Of the INS team raiding the premises
Where I’ve learned the Russian words
For “clean” and “dirty”
Where I wash the sheets of Jewish retirees
Who think I’m Cuban
And call me Billy

Break Room

Keen as Charon the deaf Trinidadian busboy collects our quarters
On the table Vitamin D milk & Wonder Bread
Little squares of butter pillows for the flies if you allow it

Ingo the German won’t let me forget he’s here to make MONEY
& gripes about his wife’s spending
Nordstrom bags in front of her like an armored vehicle

A mall-leveling force announcing Mine Mine Mine
(Same complaint later when we’re side by side folding towels)
He thinks Americans are stupid & I guess that means he is not

Meanwhile Americans are no longer found below deck unless
You’re a guest or the proprietor or work at the front desk
For the Last American Worker fled under the smoke of the fire he created

& as we endow this plain chicken chow mein with more Heinz
In comes the Jamaican cook with the news
The Brazilian waiter was detained at Miami International

Did that lawyer take his money probably
Was that “work” visa real probably not
& how funny

The Brazilian did offer to hook me up with the guy but I was too broke

So forget the Nicaraguan lawyer who tried to fuck us
& forget the Last American Worker who fucked a guest or two
Even fell in love with one or so he said

On his last day as he heaped on the work table
An entangled mess of sheets that ended up igniting
How fast we scrambled from the all-eating fire & how lofty

Those bits of linen looked aloft & how humbly they sailed off

The Laundry

Here’s Chances Are for you again
Billy remember
I may rule this room
But you know the real boss

That tall guy who signs small checks
And checks on us thrice a day

Lips lubricious with ointment
His voice also booms
Out of the PA
Paging names
Paging names

Our call to making sure

We’ve got something to spin
In these machines
Rattle & roll my friend
With a constant tinge of ire in
Your step

Or there’s always
A weed whacker lying in wait
Carnage and spray for the lizards on the grass

Or a cord hanging
In need of a good jerk while the eye
Of the storm
Tightens around us

You in your foreign felony shoes
(As I like to call them)
Me red-eyed in Jordache jeans

I’ll sing to you
Just as the down pour begins with a
Swishing vibrato

Oh man do we steam
Do we rinse & repeat
& on the phone a weasel-sized chirp

You guys caught up?


Perhaps you were the shit in Chicago
Where everybody knew you as Larry

Here in Miami you styled yourself as
A thin-hipped knife plucked hot from the sand

Where you also had a hard on for Gaddafi
His cape billowing out of a convertible

Like a desert-mocking tongue
All to impress the ladies at some Tripoli disco

You claimed to have no private life and indeed
I was privy to your lively but unexposed erections

And the further tales of you squirting into a drain
As neighbors waited to use the shared loo

You riding daily that red head with the two tots
Until you started calling them “mine’s” so she up & left

In a line you wrote you entered women like “a hot tub”
And the surprise of your tears after you slapped that maid

Not the one you took to the back of the laundry to dry-
Hump both cracking up when she called you a dog

But the older one with the golden cap after she broke
Into the linen closet greedy for whites

Most shortened your name to Ty while I
Made it rhyme with –ha ha– tyrant

And on my last day of washing and fluffing
Pressed against each other we were cool for a quick hug


Blame that brawny female again
The one who runs a taut ship on this beach
The one muscling back
Into our slow group
Those who might drift a bit

Blame those drifting

Blame ourselves –you, Auntie, little Sofia,
Me– making the female’s day
With our hands
So fetching and apt
For her grip or nudge

Blame the brutish snout blame our crotch

Blame the obedience she exacts
From her companion
A famished mongrel
With swinging grey balls
Blame his delirious sprint

After the plastic bottle
We pitch emptily
Against the wind
Not once does the pooch catch it
Blame the female who steals it first

Miss her canny ways way after they fade

Blame the short drive to the simple mausoleum
In the ever replenished
Nineteenth-century cemetery
Where we’ve stacked our dead –Blame Mom and Dad,
Blame your son on top–

Their feet pointing east ours west

Blame blood always blame its sting
Those sand flies that chase us everywhere