The Secret Garden Poems at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

© Melanie Ponce

Contrapasso Contrapposto
By Melanie Ponce

We stand together beneath the muffled rays of light
A group of bare kneed students with wrinkled shirts and crumbled pamphlets
Looking ‘round the Kingdom of Limestone
Sweat runs down our backs, the humid air stagnant as we breathe collectively
The smell of salt and ocean mist clinging to our skin
We are the architects of this room, our future
A plethora of decisions yet to come
We hold the collective steps and potential pathways
That will carve our Vizcaya in the coarse sands of time

The rallying cry of change calls for us
An echo pounding against the white walls
The chiseled figures sculpted by our ancestors
Works of art
Smooth marble
Breaking apart by the sound of our pleas, the stomping of our feet
Shake their foundation
‘Till they break

But the marble hid the steel inside
Its structure, the decrepit beams which woked
The ardent stares of those who came before us
Their eyes digging a hole at the back of our necks.
Their cry for change was good enough for them
And everything that we do
That I do
Poses a threat to their lifestyle
To their evening luncheons and art excursions
To their carnival cruise ships and holiday trips to the north.
The old men and women of yesteryear,
Whose chant echoes how our future is in our shoulders but in turn slap our hands away
When we ask for help.
Their backs face us, draped with the cloths of their experiences.
They wash their hands with our sweat.

© Kassandra Casanova

By Kassandra Casanova

 I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.

my picture has been
painted for me.
the backdrop has
been set,
the prologue written.
my story begins
on the shore,
brought forth by the tide
and might of the moon.
but i am no venus.
the crashing waves are
not my lullabies.
they do not
soothe me
with their hushed voices.
they are witnesses
to my twisted birth.
i am the product of pain,
desperation and hope.
my naked body
is a map, a storybook,
a constellation of
stars and scars.
it is hideous,
it is not the sistine chapel.

a hand
reaches out across
time and distance.
it is my great- grandmother’s,
and the many grandmothers
before her,
calling me,
begging me to pick up
the brush,
to paint their stories.
but i am no michelangelo.
this chisel is much too heavy,
my paints have dried.
i want to remember
their stories,
their pains,
their sleepy fishing towns,
their native tongues,
i want to paint
their memories
into existence.
but my fingers
have cramped.
my knuckles are white
from holding this brush
tight for too long.
i am no atlas.
i cannot carry the weight
of this expectation
i want to tell their stories-
their pleas echo
and torment my memories
and waking nights.
i dont want to forget-
mesedez, ez ahaztu.
oh please, God, please
dont let me
but it’s too late-
i can no longer remember

barkatu, amona.
im sorry, abuela

VIZCAYA - The Allograft.jpg
© Maria Victoria Biancardi

Encountering the Allograft, Vizcaya circa 1914
By Maria Victoria Biancardi

“Awake!”     he says. The light is half-
                      extinguished, the air damp and
                      mutable—rain, flooding the land’s
                      epidermis. Mud, running sanguine to reveal
                      a graveyard, Tequesta
                      burial mound. Here
                      she sleeps,
Vizcaya.       He hooks a harsh line straight through sacred
                      soil, his scalpel etching onto
                      the ground an Eden scheme, flora
                      organized like arteries, a maze of sculptures,
                      guardians—valves to steer
                      the pulse of watery clay
                      in the hush of Florida fever.
“Awake!       Let there be construction,” he says.
                      He wants Rome rising from
                      a bed of shell and coral
and clay. He wants to spark the land alive
like a dead tongue into murmur.
He wants this terrain for his villa.
He wants construction.
“Awake!”     He is Prometheus, creator or tomb raider –
                      collecting his specimen, native,
                      foreign—removing old European
                      blood, injecting it into this
                      slumbering tissue.
                      Tequesta flesh. Transfusion.
                      He digs into the cavities with his needle:
“Awake!”     He stitches the pieces—drapes and ligaments,
                      hearth and cardiac muscle—incision in every room—
                      chandelier transplants, Middle Eastern carpets, painting
                      sliced to fit an organ. He quilts a patchwork: Atlantic
                      threads and Mediterranean strands–marble and
                      coquina limestone. He weaves those shores—
                      sewn together, then cauterized. Then
“Awake!”     She is risen. Half-alive, half-
                      extinguished. Bloody torso she
                      can’t recognize—can’t know
what to say or what to call herself.
                      Of her creation and creator she is
                      Ignorant. Vizcaya

he has named her.

village photo.jpg
© Aaron Rodriguez-Pupo

Ode to Vizcaya Grounds
By Aaron Rodriguez-Pupo

Trees stripped bare in the storm
still shelter wet rocks, and the
sky is clear through the branches—
blue holes show through the canopy
and light shines on leaves
that have never seen the sun.

I catch two lizards fighting on a branch,
little brown things with tiny claws,
ignorant of the way water drips
and drains down into the limestone.
The empty moat lies overgrown,
and the house, younger than it looks,
leans on the bay, water-logged,

blown about. Inside, red marble
stays cool to the touch
and in the salon the gold
and crystal chandelier still hangs
out of time, out of place,
from a roof built somewhere else,

in a house built somewhere else,
and planted here against the magroves’ will,
and which, though new to me,
seems haggard, old
to the wet rocks, storm-touched,
that were here before, and will be here after.

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© Cristina Meléndez

By Cristina Meléndez

It’s been a day
The only good news
is that I’m somehow alive
I keep hearing the wind recklessly screaming into the silver stained shutters
The loud thumps of water falling
from cracked ceilings
my car
my house
wouldn’t inundate
I have never known headaches like this
Everything has changed

It’s been a week
The furrows on my face
appearing like she did,
are now distinct
I’ve grown a bit weary
of the mornings,
drenched in my own sweat
The afternoons,
fanning myself with leftover carton pieces from loved one’s care packages The 8pm curfews
Everything has changed

It’s been a month
And she’s been gone
but her destruction still lingers Poignantly reminding me
of what she’s done
to my family,
to my people,
to my island,
My beautiful enchanting island Everything is brown, Everything is still not ok Everything has changed
and I still need help.

© Albany Gonzalez

childhood as a gesture
By Albany Gonzalez

My mama’s hands are rough
Even in the Miami winter
The skin splinters off and cracks
Used to tell her they look like the veins of a leaf.
My mama worked in houses not as decadent
but almost
high arching roofs
expensive art
but no pseudo-moats
as if separating us and them between dimensions
sharp, harsh
a sort of violence that transcends time
My mama hid it well
So I can’t help but wonder:
Did the children play
between the trunks of the banyan trees
the way I lost myself in the backyards of mansions
while their parents knelt, and bent, and worked
till fissures bled on the skins of their hands?

The Vizcaya Poems by Poetry Art Community
The Frog Fountain Poems
The Secret Garden Poems
The Center Island Poems
The Grotto Poems
The West Pool Poems


John William Bailly & Stephanie Sepúlveda 10 November 2017