Frenemies and Word Play

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I just ended one of my intercambios for the summer. I had a whole family: two aunts, three cousins, a grandma, and an uncle. We were a spectacle in the market. I was training three booths in a bustling market how to respond to English-speaking tourists.

We drilled on the difference between fifteen and fifty dollars, between a shirt and a skirt, between wood and wool. We practiced our colors and cordial phrases.

At one of the booths, upon learning the word ugly, the littlest girl shouted it out at an elderly American man. It sounded like a long and loud: uuuuuugleee!

I (as straight-faced and stern as I could muster) reminded her that he could understand her.

I confided to her patient mother that English can be dangerous.

Still I helped the girl write a composition about a “friend” although the child felt compelled to write that the friend has a long mouth and dirty ears. I had to inquire how the recipient would know, from the note, she is truly friend.

The tiny terrorizer decided to add that though the frenemy has greasy hair, she has clean teeth.

Little Prayers

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The streets are nearly empty, but the sound of the game hovers over the city, blaring over the playground with children squealing, flinching, cheering in unison; roaring from shop windows, whispering from cell phones for circles of people as if assembled for a campfire. Even the strays seem to listen for the score will ArrrArrrArrrrooooo as the Mexicans protract Goooool as an opera singer stretches a note. I am rooting for Mexico, for the joy of the whole city, for the pride of a nation.

There is an electric jubilation in the streets that makes the hair on my arms stand at attention. We all have goosebumps for the potential.

Another Oaxaca politician has been murdered. The newspaper reports the 150 bullets fired into the truck, the other casualties. The body is unabashedly published in black and white.

The people at the cafe watch the game on the iPad cash register. The Irish bar above the cafe waves the Mexican flag today. The patrons chant and cringe and watch together, eschewing real problems.

I wonder how many people are praying for a win. I wonder whether this is the right thing to pray for. Even more, I wonder if it will work.

When something makes me nervous or upset, like having an unexpected argument, I switch my mind to other things. The music on the radio, the breeze blowing through the windows, how delicious cinnamon is in savory dishes. This is how I cope with the tension in the air.

Even the gum sellers wear patriotic green. The baristas take the news of a point scored by the opposing team as they practice pouting expressions and milk to form designs on top, filming the process.

How long is this game?

I can’t take the groans from the Irish pub. I can’t bear the dismay of the baristas, I escape the cafe, but even Constantino, the man who sells rugs, is certain it’s already over.

Part of me knows that a sport should not mean so much. Part of me knows the value of metaphors and charms.

What happens when my lucky jersey doesn’t bring a win—when prayers aren’t answered?

Ants!

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This girl has a sack of giant flying ants. That is one of them crawling on her left knee.

A horde of us have been out hunting ants, in Llano Park and throughout the city, since sunrise.

A woman fills her red jacket’s pockets; a man uses his moto helmet as a basket. A valet and a waiter scramble to fill grocery sacks with ants. The shoe shiner loans bags to customers. A man pushes ants, wings and all, into a Coke bottle as his wife zips them in her purse.

Some trappers bring crumbs for the birds (as distraction for the competition); some gatherers team up, use their children.

Some gratefully praise the fortune falling from the heavens, and some think I don’t know that chicatanas (giant flying ants) arrive with hurricane season, that I cannot know two full days of rain signal the joyous beginning of hunters harvesting ingredients.

I have sampled this salsa. I have dabbled in the seasonal delicacies here. I know what flavors the weather brings.

  • Most of the poems featuring ants make them metaphor for how infinitesimally small we are in the cosmos: https://hellopoetry.com/words/ants/. A bit more creative, some poets make them industrious little builders. Of course, there are also the picnic destroyers. I like to think of these insects as the Oaxacans do, as a special food delivered by the rains, as sustenance, as sport. How can you freshen a metaphor by drawing from a different culture’s views?

Over the Moon

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image from: bradslepicka.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/do-cows-really-jump-over-the-moon/

I am over the moon that Munyori Literary Journal has featured several of my pieces.

From their website: Munyori Literary Journal is a Zimbabwean-American literary platform that features works from global writers and artists. The word ‘munyori’ is Shona for “writer” or “author.” Here we extend its meaning to represent all artists. We are ambitious; we dream to make a significant contribution to literature and the arts. We are writers too, and proudly call ourselves Vanyori, the plural form of the word, but the emphasis is on what each writer contributes, in that moment when the creation of art is a solitary process. It is at that moment when what you are–munyori–is highlighted.

  • Submit. According to poets.org: Research is key to learning where to submit poems. Poets.org suggests spending some time finding literary journals and magazines that publish enjoyable work similar to the contributor’s craft. Publications seeking work are listed at: Poets & Writers or New Pages, or check out a copy of the annual Poet’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books).

 

 

 

Whap

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Merry Christmas!
I was about to draft a list titled what I like best about Oaxaca, but, before I could start, a man hit my arm with his plastic patio chair and ran to fetch an expensive pair of sunglasses he’d left in the restroom.
See that would be a good title to accompany one of the German artist’s pieces.
How do I know this? When he returned, he leaned into my face to tell me the glasses were expensive and that he had paid more than four thousand pesos for them. I wanted to slap his stupid sunglasses out of his hands.
Instead, I said: ok, packed up my things, and left.  I could feel the celebratory inventory of sounds and scents and stories simply vanish with the quick whap of the chair.
  • I was thinking about what happened and how:
    • 1. the incident was significantly palpable and audible
    • 2. the onomatopoeia of the instant marked a change in me.
This made me look for pieces featuring onomatopoeia. Among the pieces, I found: “toon tune,” by Gustave Morin: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/51817/toon-tune. It is an odd piece as the words are embedded in the collage of cartoons. This piece is a delightful play on words–and with words as well as colors and images. This made me think of Susan Howe and her collage pieces: http://www.raintaxi.com/write-through-this-the-poetry-of-susan-howe/. Make your own collage.

One Sock Almost Always Demands Its Pair

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I tell the friendly woman at the laundry that a pair of some other woman’s underwear (or interior clothing) made it into my bag. She says sometimes they are small and hide in the dryer. I agree that they are indeed small.
She laughsand offers the trivia that it is rare for people to return in search of panties, but one sock almost always demands its pair. Neither do people seem to notice the lost washcloth.I
I am grateful for insider information such as this. Of course, I don’t know its immediate application to my life and travels, but I am grateful that I can engage in this sort of small talk with someone who’s smiling and interested in my interest in her domain.
I’m off to the tailor in the market to try out new words.
I can’t help but recall the warning of WS Merwin in his short prose poem “Language,” from: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/language
Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.
  • Which words will you be buried with? Why?

Chisme Caliente (Hot Gossip)

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M does not visit Oaxaca with me in the summers. He must work at his job in Sacramento. He also cheerfully keeps the cats company, waters the garden.
Some people here are certain M’s a fiction, that I have stock photos filed on my phone, for what man would permit his wife to wander the streets alone? I try to remember that I am a tourist in a culture sometimes so different it might be a different time.
This morning, I was confronted by Carolina, a blouse vendor, who, after asking how I was doing and making other small talk, inquired about how my FRIEND is.
She wanted me to know she’d seen me sitting under the laurel with C, listening to the band on Sunday afternoon. She wanted me to know that I was the star of hot gossip, that people were watching my show.
I reported that my FRIEND is fine and that I hadn’t seen him since the concert as he is staying in another part of the city. She had all sorts of questions. I offered few answers wanting instead to maintain the intrigue.

Reluctantly starring in town gossip, in a town where I’m a tourist, is somewhat exciting and makes me feel a bit torn as Johnny Cash in the following excerpt of his poem “Don’t Make a Movie About Me:”

If anybody made a movie out of my life
I wouldn’t like it, but I’d watch it twice
If they halfway tried to do it right
There’d be forty screen writers workin’ day and nite.
  • What is the gossip? How does it energize the plot in a positive way?