The Onyx Ashtray

It was 1966 when we bought
the small green onyx ashtray
in Woolworths, Mexico City.
It depicted a hunched gaucho
sleeping beneath his sombrero.
Unfortunately the other day
it fell on the floor and it broke.
It had stood on the windowsill
to remind me I used to smoke
which I believed to be macho.

It also brought back memories
of the exotic places we visited,
newlyweds on our honeymoon,
in the land of Aztecs and Mayas.
Having left the Mexican capital
went in search of the pyramids
of the Sun and of the Moon,
in the holy city of Teotihuacan
which allegedly is ‘the place
where the gods were created’.

Then onwards we travelled
by a Greyhound Express bus.
An overnight stop in Taxco,
an ancient silver mining town.
At midnight a band of mariachis
serenaded a girl two floors down
from the room where we slept.
It’s a custom met with a frown
by those whose sleep is disturbed
but a tribute the girl will accept.

Acapulco was our destination
and eventually we got there.
We lazed on the golden beach,
enjoyed the local gastronomy,
ate tacos and drank tequila,
watched the divers at La Quebrada
did everything that tourists do,
did not worry about economy,
we risked ending up with nada
but had the best time of our life.

© Luigi Pagano 2017




© ionicus 2020
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A branch of Woolworths in Mexico City! Blimey…. the mind does a veritable boggle. Enjoyed your poem, Luigi. Great memories with that quintessential ‘Ionicus’ jaunt.


This feels authentic, Luigi, joining you for an interesting ramble through a memorable episode in your life, and set off by a triggering incident today. Is ‘nada* becoming broke, or a stomach complaint? Flows beautifully, very informative too. The inclusion of local names adds a lot to the feel of a real experience. Much enjoyed.


Ah yes, I didn’t see the tag. That onyx is very fragile, had a chess set and board all in blue and white onyx, made in Mexico, bought in USA. Every piece has a chip on it, even the edging of the board has split away! Americans are very generous when sharing similar experiences, paying for, and refusing to share the bill. Happened to us in New York. But they were visitors too, from out of town, locals there are hardened survivors! Probably only needs extra time. Okay’ nada’ means ‘nothing’, skint, I thought for a minute you meant it… Read more »


Yes, that old mystery of fate, what might have been. But then the doable, invitationable validity of offered hospitality is ofter hard to judge. Usually meant to be kept at compliment level.

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