Lorraine Caputo

I.
Tamalitos
oaxaqueños
calientitos
The voice echoes down the near-
midnight streets,
around trunks of trees and
bougainvillea. Their
flowers sweeten the air.

Pides tus ricas
tamales
oaxaqueños
His yellow bicycle cart sways with each
pedal. From
beneath the lids of the large pots,
steam escapes.

Deliciosos
tamales
oaxaqueños
His call becomes louder. The lamplight
reflects off him,
his cart, the pots.

Tamalitos
oaxaqueños
calientitos

II.
This still afternoon up in the light, airy
study is broken by
the sound of a strong trumpet &
drum wending through
the congested streets.

I abandon my work & run down the
stairs, through one door
& out the second.

The last strains of the blare, the last
boom of the beat echo
amidst the buildings & stalls.

& there, on the corner, stands the young
bugle boy. The horn
& tip coins shine in his hands.

III.
In the great Plaza, olive-drab soldiers
stand at attention,
guns over shoulders, forming a
blockade between
people & pole.

Nearer the center, other militares, clad in
maroon. The
voice of one’s lone coronet rises
above the others’
tap-tap-tap of drums.

The giant bandera, green-white-red, falls
slowly into
the hands of a dozen men. They roll
it up, then
march into the Palacio Nacional.

The heavy doors shut behind them.

The setting sun reflects gold in the
cupola windows of
the cathedral. Stone carvings of the
façade fall into
deep shadows.

The volcanoes are hidden by the smog
that still fills this
valley. Popocatepetl’s white spume is
barely visible.

Silently, secretly, the flag is raised again
– a twilight sleight
of hand. It bends & twists in the chill
wind of dusk that
scuttles across the grey stones of the
Zócalo.

Near the Metro entrance, a woman &
child huddle beneath
her Chiapan rebozo that does not
cover her feet, shod in
open-toed plastic shoes.

IV.
Shortly after eight in the evening

Suddenly I feel ill, a pull at my solar
plexus. The man at the
other side of our table also feels
woozy. All around the room
everyone else, too, has that unsteady
look.

Someone yells, Earthquake.

I duck beneath a desk. The earth
continues to roll.

A Californian declares, We should go
downstairs
.

& as we descend, so does the lull.
Suddenly another shock.
The lights violently sway. We are
riding on a rough,
stormy earthen sea. The minutes
seem endless. A third
shock as we push chairs out of the
way & hide beneath
the large comedor table. Some hold
onto the spiral-carved
legs.

Finally this storm calms.

But that sense of queasiness, the
memory of that pull upon my
solar plexus will not for many
weeks.

V.
Tamalitos
oaxaqueños
calientitos
The voice echoes down the near-
midnight streets.

Pides tus ricas
tamales
oaxaquenos
His bicycle cart sways with each pedal.

Deliciosos
tamales
oaxaqueños
A man flags him to the sidewalk. As he
slows, the voice silences.

VI.
Cold nights unfold into ochre-grey
dawns tangled with traffic,
scented with atole, steamed by pots
of tamales.

Soon the sidewalks are crammed with
stalls selling everything
& whatever. & everybody in this city
has their trade –
the prostitutes – musicians strolling
from restaurant to
cantina, from metro car to car –
windshield washers &
jugglers & single-stem-rose vendors
at traffic lights.

Everything, anything to make a survival.

& everyday, it seems, a demonstration
will stop that endless
traffic. The intersections will clear
for its passage, the
vendors, the jugglers & windshield
washers passing through
the snarl in hopes of a few pesos
here & there.

VII.
One Friday over 100,000 campesinos
march against the North
American Free Trade Agreement.

¡El pueblo no aguanta más!

A Fox-faced scarecrow, US flag across
his chest, is hung on
the doors of the Palacio Nacional.

A sharp wind scurries empty water
bottles, cups, handbills
across the stones of the Zócalo.

People lay down upon their signs, wrap
themselves in their
banners. Others group around
bonfires of placard stakes.

Salvamos al campo para salvar a México,
reads the banner
strung above the crowded stage.
Suddenly that cry falls
in flames.

VIII.
The days dawn warmer & filled with
shrill birdsong. Bluer
skies emerge above  the curtain of
smog.

A miles-long march of students,
professors & workers chant
the resistance of the UNAM
strikers, chant the memory
of the police invasion of that campus
three years ago.

The repression continues & movements
join voices, their
banners fluttering with the winds –
Frente Popular
Francisco Villa, leftists, anarchists,
colectivos de Poder
Popular & labor unions.

Chanting & marching into the distance,
towards the center
of the City. The traffic stands still,
drivers stirred by
this resistance.

IX.
In Chapultepec Park, beneath fine-
needled pines, a child
chases a ball.

The voladores swing, winding head-first
from sky to
Mother Earth. Shrill flute & drums
weave through the
deep shadows of late afternoon.

The sinking sun glints off new buildings
scraping the sky.

X.
Almost midnight.

In silence we wait upon the platform for
that last metro train
to arrive. The hour flashes, minutes
pass in red lights.

A mournful accordion song drifts
through the station & down
blackened tunnels. At one end of the platform on the other
side, an indigenous campesina plays.
Her children sleep
at her feet, beneath a soiled rebozo.

Wind whirls our hair before the chain of
cars opens its doors,
engulfs us & speeds off.

Leaving behind the strains of her
mournful song echoing down
the tunnel.

XI.
Tamalitos
oaxaqueños
calientitos
That voice echoes down the near-
midnight street.

Pides tus ricas
tamales
oaxaquenos
His bicycle cart sways with each pedal.

Deliciosos
tamales
oaxaqueños
His call fades into the distance, echoing
past
sleeping homes & shuttered shops.

Tamalitos
oaxaqueños
calientitos …

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