Four calling birds, three French hens, a clutch of fairies, a swarm of mimes, a wreck of penguins, and one lost deer

It is not Halloween. No, Llano Park has not been overrun by fairies and deer. Mini Marcel Marceau here would speak Spanish should he need to speak.

Every stretch of the park is brimming with fantastic Lilliputian beasts. Perhaps it is the season, but I am certain I have interacted with the majority of the cast of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but the pear tree is more mango.

I cannot help singing the whole inventory of presents for the five circles I complete. It is as if I am stuck on repeat. My whole life I have unabashedly belted out Christmas songs from my seat in the back of the pickup truck, to the horses as I waited for their troughs to fill, to an audience of cats and chickens, in my own little car, in the grocery store for an entire season. I would only karaoke Christmas tunes or Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” I do a mean “Private Dancer.”

Twelve Days of Christmas

–Frederic Austen

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a leaping,
Nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.

https://play.google.com/music/preview/T4xcsoiy7wqyrlvghtebxleixq4?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics

See the Muppets and John Denver sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDBMzGq1vhs

  • What “Private Dancer” (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tinaturner/privatedancer.html) and “Twelve Days of Christmas” have in common is of course the dancing )as the children were preparing to do); they also have fantastic lists. Consider the various “forms” of the list: the listicle; the list or sequential poem; the shopping, to-do, check, and wish lists; there are opportunities for (another list): brainstorming as well as character, conflict, and point of view development.

 

Mercado de Abastos: Supply Market

abastos

It is Saturday before 8AM, and Miguel is knocking at my door. I am only half-dressed and reading The New York Times to get my daily dose of English before I head to the intercambio at the library.

When I finally emerge from my room, Mari and Miguel laugh at me, how tired and disheveled I look.  Then, Miguel says we are going to the Mercado de Abastos, a place tourists are warned not go, a place known for pick-pockets and surprised stares.

I ask for five minutes to pull on a pair of jeans and brush my teeth. I don’t want to carry anything, so I stuff a coin purse, keys, and my phone into my pockets. I am so out of it, I unintentionally tuck my back-up phone into my bra.

I jump into Miguel’s tiny black car with his decal of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns on the passenger-side window and we are off to the market.

Because it is early for most of Oaxaca, we find a parking space with ease and begin to search for a taxi driver who can deliver me to San Juan Teitipac in the afternoon.

We talk with Pedro, someone from Miguel’s town, and he suggests I meet him outside of a chocolate mill on a street off of the zocalo at 3:30PM. Miguel does not like this plan; he thinks too much can go wrong. Pedro is not going to convince him otherwise, so we skip the line of taxis (though I promise I know where it is now), and we ask around for an area called el cajon where the afternoon taxis meet.

We roam through the aisles of the market through the various sections: clothing, beans and seeds, vegetables, flowers, and so forth. The engine of of commerce is still warming up.

Miguel tells me where to buy the best empanadas. We are both getting hungry.

Before I see it, I smell it.  Still walking, I pull my shirt up to my nose. I put a hand over my mouth. I look down and see an entire discarded crab at my feet and other garbage. We round a corner, and their is a garbage heap reminiscent of the dump.

I start to double over, a quiet gag. Miguel who has been leading the way, turns around. He can’t believe what he sees. He asks: “Seriously?” Then he seems to catch what I have and has to smother his own inclination to retch.

We walk faster. Once the air is clear, Miguel laughingly reports that he’s no longer hungry. We also still don’t have any sort of a plan.

He shows me how to take a bus back to the posada, and I smile all of the way home for all of the adventure one can have before 9:30AM.

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out
–Shel Silverstein

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
“OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!

  • The impromptu dump in the market is due to the protests in the streets and the lack of transportation for sanitation; the whole city has been affected in similar ways (just not at the same magnitude of this monstrous market). What are some other side effects (great and small) of conflicts? Use this to add depth to plot.

Tortillas

tortilla.jpg

In a Oaxacan cooking class years ago you learned you could not make tortillas. The masa became a messy paste in your dull hands. And then you dropped the jumble to the floor. Doña Soledad, your not-so-patient teacher, exclaimed, “You can never marry a Mexican man.” Her prohibition highlighted the magnitude of your failure. You were relieved you were already married, but it was still a shocking testament to your capacity to disappoint people with your cooking.

The next day, determined to redeem yourself, you made a perfect tamale. The masa was spread at the correct measure; the filling was just enough; your swaddling was firm. Doña Soledad praised you publicly and even recanted part of her prohibition, winking and saying: “Okay, you can marry a Mexican man…as long as he doesn’t eat tortillas.”

In cooking class this time you know you have no business trying to make a tortilla, but you remove your rings, keep your palms moist, breathe. The tortilla turns out competently.

Over the stove, the instructor informs you that, if you time it right, the tortilla will inflate. If it does, you will get married.

Of all of the tortillas, only yours puffs up. You have redeemed yourself.

Edmund Dorset’s “On Failure” speaks to the importance of small victories like mine: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=16432 (see the bottom poem)

  • The tortilla puffing up is an example of a superstition. Consider the following superstition prompts from The Academy of American Poets (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/onteaching/poetry-superstition-and-supposition):
    1. Cover your mouth when you yawn or evil spirits will fly into your body.
    2. If you sit by a fire with a group of friends and a person’s shadow does not appear to have a head, that person will be the first to die.
    3. If a bird frightens a pregnant woman, her child will be born with a wing instead of an arm.
    4. “A mole on the arm can do you no harm, a mole on your lip—you are witty and flip. A mole on your neck brings money by the peck, but a mole on your back brings money by the sack.”
    5. If a hen runs into your house, you will receive important visitors.
    6. If a person’s eyebrows join at the nose, they are not to be trusted.
    7. If you can catch a dragonfly, you will be married within the year.
    8. Dimples are a sign that God has touched you with favor, but “a dimple on the chin means a devil within.”

The Protestor

She spends the cool morning looking for blood or the best substance to impersonate this fluid. She settles on crimson paint to use as rouge, as sunburn, as ink to scrawl out a message as if this message had been torn from her own skin. But this is not how the fight feels inside her yet. Can’t you see? She is a zebra that has been attacked by a hyena. She has been numbed by shock.

Do not go gentle into that good night

–Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/do-not-go-gentle-good-night