A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Chiapas, ten years old. Morning hummingbirds, rainforest canopy. Where monarchs land on my arm, & don’t fly away. Adobe house on a hill. Three rooms, no doors. Where two holes in the kitchen wall pretend to be windows. Chiapas, where heat rises & never falls. Where tarantulas cool off in the corner of the cement block shower outside by the water pump. Where the campesinos rise before dawn, the coffee plantation dispelling their slumber. Where you braid my long, red hair, sitting crossed-legged on the dirt patio. Where I make licuados de platano. The only sustenance we can stomach in this sizzling heat. & from the back porch, where we watch the Zapatistas tread across the valley in the distance. Chiapas. The seven hour bus ride back to Tuxtla Gutiérrez. The lice we all got that summer. The Vietnamese hostel we stayed at. Where Juan Carlos & Marcela taught you how to make chiles en nogada. Where your friend Ernesto introduced me to Lennon. Where you dressed me up like a Mexican rag doll in white dresses & huaraches. Where I worked among the other children raking raw coffee beans, turning them to dry on the high plateau. Where I tried learning Tzotzil, in the family huts after the dishes were done. Where I started my first rock collection: amber to deter el malo ojo, quartz, opal, tiger’s eye, good for traveling. Chiapas. Where I slept on a single mattress with six-legged neon beetles, & baby spiders. Listening to the adults talk late into the night. The static hiss of the radio. Where I first learn about the constellations, & the eight phases of the moon. Where you wake me up in the middle of a dream. Where you blow out all the candles, hide our passports in the safe, next to Ernesto’s rifle. Where the darkness envelops us. Where we wait. Chiapas as a child. Where we drive to San Cristobal de las Casas, in Ernesto’s old rusty truck. Where you smoke rolled cigarettes, & idly pluck at an old guitar. Where you curse in broken English, as Imagine all the people mixes with the loudest crickets I’ve ever heard. Where you realize I’m allergic to cats, milk, & sand. Remember that plaza where you bought me those colorful bracelets? Chiapas. Where I forget my rocks, my drawings, & my dresses. Where my skin almost gets brown enough, where dark coffee beans sparkle in the oily sunset. Where I first drank it black. & when we left that time Ma, we never looked back.