Raising goats for local markets
Slitting their throats in public
executions, tales of church bells, suspicion of dreams,
humid air, vermilion ripped sky, scorpions stalk patios
searching for shade. A humble and proud town:
They tell me you are different and I know, for I
remember wrinkled glances as I passed you
on short-corner Sunday afternoons, observing
my startling paleness.
And they tell me you are innocent and I reply: Yes,
you have a softness that murmurs on my memories.
And they tell me you are kind and my reply is this: I know
the history of Zapata and his revolutionaries riding
through your desert plains seeking justice for the poor.
And having lived between your Sierra Sisters as
coppery dust rubbed my cheeks, staining my skin
leaving me thirsty, and aware:
Come and show me Ché and JFK hanging side by side on your
walls, adorned and nestled between wooden crucifixes.
Piling alfalfa on a donkey’s back, you work against
midday heat with knotted hands, here is your life:
toiled as a cornfield needing water from a drying reserve,
brutal as a climate stoked with molten embers, on April
Cultivating, curing, accepting.
Under the stars, I watched bats circling fruit
trees in the yard, hunting delicate sweetness,
under the church’s chapel singing as old
women vowed on ancient rosaries,
believing even as Indigenous live without
electricity, running water or shoes,
bathing and hoping that under his tree is the breeze,
and under his mountains the red clay expands,
Gathering the humility, familiarity, cradling babies
beneath your breasts, determined, invigorating, merchants
peddle their items, corn-harvester, alfalfa-grower,
producer of fresh cream and butter, your buildings
still under construction thirty years after the quake.
process notes: This is a compilation of both towns that we’ve lived in, in Oaxaca. Every word is true and imagine my surprise and terror at some of these scenes. I would say the most horrifying was the day
a bat was in our outdoor bathroom, and I thought he/she was a large moth, but no, he/she wasn’t. I don’t believe I have ever run that fast in my life. I have never gotten used to the openness of slaughtering animals in public, but it didn’t seem to faze the locals one bit. It’s enough to turn you vegetarian.
It is also a prompt Margo offered some time ago, and that was to write a poem similar to Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago”. I hope I did it justice.