Oaxaca Napowrimo Day # 2


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
Chocolate-skinned people,
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,
not breaching!

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.


21 responses to “Oaxaca Napowrimo Day # 2

  1. Hi, Dean. I wasn’t even done editing out the post, when I saw you had commented. Thanks so much. I will be over to read your napo offering soon.

  2. Brilliant poem, Pamela! So powerful. So many great lines. I see the connection to Sandberg’s Chicago. Loved: “short-corner Sunday afternoons” and “you have a softness that murmurs on my memories.” One of your best!!!

  3. Pamela, this is excellent. You used the form so well. I like that line Marianne pointed out. Anyway I’m gonna read this again.

  4. Oh my, Pamela, you’ve outdone yourself. I sighed aloud while reading this, and Len asked me to read it aloud to him. He loves it as much as I do. Damn good writing. You keep doing what you’re doing….this is important.

  5. It must have been terror and fun, Pam! We once had a wayward civet cat ( a wild cat sort of) in the kitchen. When we were through chasing it, the kitchen was a mess!


  6. Now, I have to google that, Hank. It was quite the experience.

  7. This is excellent, Pam. It captures your experiences poetically, and yes…I can see how it would fulfill Margo’s prompt (which stymied me). I couldn’t see animals slaughtered in public either. I suppose it is all in what one grows up with.

  8. Thanks Mary, it is all about what you grow up with. Living in Oaxaca was an experience I shall never forget. It is a much more rural area, than here even. I enjoyed writing this quite a bit.

  9. wow this is gorgeously done…you start with some really vivid imagery and then make it personal a bit and really dones a great job bringing out a sense of place…

  10. Hi Brian! Thanks for saying so. Hope your trip to the Big Apple was great!

  11. I cannot find a favorite line. I simply like them all. An amazing write sharing with me the lifes of people there. I majored in Sociology at university and people will always be in my heart. Thank You!

  12. Pamela, I’m so glad you linked to this one from We Write Poems. I was hesitant at first (as I am with long poems) but I enjoyed it immensely. I am grateful for what you have shown me here. It was a delightful journey, except for the goat slaughter. An excellent write!


  13. “vermilion ripped sky,”

    This is magic and I love this stanza:

    “And having lived between your Sierra Sisters as
    coppery dust rubbed my cheeks, staining my skin
    leaving me thirsty, and aware:”

    Love that…thirsty and aware…

    Glad you shared at wwp!

    • Hannah, thanks for commenting on this piece. I like some of it, but other parts need some re-working. I am just not sure where to start.

      • Oh, I have some like that, too, I understand that feeling. Maybe pick the part that you feel needs the least work and get it how you like it and keep doing that till you’re done but not all at once probably, or maybe?! So nice to talk with you!

      • Good advice, Hannah. The problem is I approach things head on, and get lost along the way, 😉
        Nice talking to you also.

      • Oh, yes, I can see where that would be tricky! I hope it helps a little, coming from one who almost never revises aside from during the initial crafting! lol

        Have a great night!! 🙂

I appreciate all comments.

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