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?

Today’s News

Dog
Saul leaves the enclosed porch to listen to the town announcement. He says it’s often difficult to interpret what she’s saying into the loud speaker.
I say I thought I was hearing a flock of doves. Alma thinks I’m hilarious. I pretend that I am.
Saul reports that a small brown dog is missing. He adds that this is not news.
In fact, the large dog I just witnessed gulp down three featherless, white chicken heads will wander the town for days, returning only on empty to feast once again.

I Found the Little Businessman!

 

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After nearly a week of searching, I first bumped into Mateo (14). Immediately after, I encountered Cecelia and Agostino. Agostino immediately reminded me of how we first met, that I permit him to use my phone, that we sometimes have coffee over there under those trees, and popsicles, and corn, and… I asked him if he had a new show, any new tricks. He reported that he had nothing to offer.
I told him and Cecelia that I’d expect: chistes, bromas, burlas, una charla, or un show tomorrow. They both giggled and said they’d be ready with some kind of a stunning performance.
I wonder how long we will know each other, how things will change in our lives, what fortunes await us. Then, Cecelia informs me that Mateo is married and she introduces me to her sister-in-law, his bride.
I am stunned; I try to say felicidades. I try to understand. I try to remember Jane Hirshfield’s “A Blessing for a Wedding:”
Read the whole poem at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53393/a-blessing-for-wedding
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days
  • What does your character fail to say? Why does she fail?

Hungry–and Afraid

Last night I doubled back to my room for my jacket. I noticed 500 pesos on the floor. I knew it was not my bill. Miguel, who’d been alerted by my indecision and his own about asking me to borrow a razor, asked me what was happening.
I told him I’d found the money and I was giving it to him. He said no. He was sure someone would ask for it. I said I was sure that, had I lost it, I wouldn’t think to ask him for it.
He was clearly shaken by the quantity. He confessed that he’d asked Mari for a small loan for bus money that same morning.
This morning on my way out the door, I asked whether anyone had tried to claim the money. He said no. He wondered out loud what he should do. I said, as far as I was concerned, it was his.
He seemed relieved and said that I’m not just an angelito (a little angel), I am an angelote (a turkey-sized one)!
In the park, I was aware of being turkey-like and thus was unsurprised when a hungry white dog got too close. I could see him licking his jaws at the thought of a delicious thanksgiving.
When he wasn’t trailing me, I kept my eye on him. He even pursued pigeons and a pile of trash.
We both spotted the small girl with the pink lunchpail at the same time. She’d be succulent, like veal.
As he was quickly approaching, she sensed his laser focus from a few feet, and she darted in front of her mother. I nearly applauded her survival instincts.
It is 9AM now. Rowdy schoolchildren surround the fountain and a gang of wild dogs of assorted sizes barges into the park, howling their alarm.
Shadow, my little white dog, listens for a second and then decides he needs a safer spot. I agree.
  • So many things to be afraid of… Check out how Jody Gladding takes on fear with door-to-door evangelists, or salespeople, in the prose poem 1-800-FEAR:
We’d  like  to  talk  with  you  about  fear they  said  so
many  people  live  in  fear  these  days  they  drove  up
all  four  of  them  in  a  small  car nice   boy  they  said
beautiful  dogs they  said  so  friendly  the  man  ahead
of  the  woman  the other  two  waiting  in  the  drive  I
was  outside digging up the garden no one home I said
what   are  you  selling   anyway  I’m   not  interested  I
said  well  you  have  a  nice  day  they  said  here’s  our
card  there’s   a  phone  number  you  can  call  anytime
any  other   houses  down  this  road  anyone  else   live
here  we’d  like  to  talk  to  them  about  living  in  fear
As Miguel feared his fortune, what are fears your characters face?

They Offer You an Umbrella…

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and you respond that you were born in the desert. They look at you confused. “Do you want an umbrella?”  You finish your thought. Because I was born in the desert, I hardly know how to use one.
Their laughter comes as generously as the rain. And you are filled with gratitude for all of this–even though you know you are far from the city and will surely be drenched by the time you return.
An elder in a cowboy hat hops on the bus you’re finally on. He’s holding a shovel. It’s as if he’s reporting for duty–somewhere down the bumpy road.
In English class, you practice saying, writing, owning words like carved, folk art, design, paint, and the dreadfully difficult pre Hispanic.
You struggle to spell things phonetically, so these students will remember how they are said long after you return to the US.
Your students are surprised by your English voice. It is faster and more confident than your Spanish one. Your Spanish voice is timid, quieter.
Back in the city, tourists fill the letters of the name Oaxaca. They line up to take photographs of themselves bending into the O, hovering over the X.
Your English students also hover over their letters, confusing E and I, trembling in the face of English’s irregularities.
You assure them that this is worth the labor it requires. You promise them that although it feels like a hailstorm of weird sounds that thud from the tongue, they are on their way.
Rain
–Kazim Ali
With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain.
Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain.
Over the echo of the water, I hear a voice saying my name.
No one in the city moves under the quick sightless rain.
The pages of my notebook soak, then curl. I’ve written:
“Yogis opened their mouths for hours to drink the rain.”
The sky is a bowl of dark water, rinsing your face.
The window trembles; liquid glass could shatter into rain.
I am a dark bowl, waiting to be filled.
If I open my mouth now, I could drown in the rain.
I hurry home as though someone is there waiting for me.
The night collapses into your skin. I am the rain.
  • What does the weather do to the story? How does the storm enter the characters? The speaker? How do we become the thunder?

And the Man in the Park?

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A scruffy-looking white guy is propped against his white Titan truck. He has been in the park for more than an hour. I am returning from an errand, and he still looks confused.
The magnitude of confusion is far beyond not knowing a word or how to conjugate a verb correctly or where the neighborhood Volcanes–that name they’re always hollering out of the bus window–is.
No, this confusion is tremendous, more like: How the heck did I arrive in Mexico? Am I really this far south? What am I going to tell my boss?
And where are my shoes?
Before he became my subject, I was thinking about how North American I am, too North American I thought–before seeing this dude.
I’m focused mostly on how my frankness, forthrightness, perhaps directness often come across as impolite.
Going to the butcher and asking for two pounds of meat without first:
1. Making eye contact.
2. Saying hello and good afternoon.
3. Broaching the subject with “please.”
4. Softening the request with “might I be able to have…”
5. Finishing with two pounds of meat
is akin to running into an establishment and demanding:  MEAT!
In Oaxaca, I never fail to be delighted that a man with a scowl will soften at a: “Hello, good afternoon,” from even the most foreign-looking stranger on the street.
It’s all about manners, I think. So I practice what I will say to the man selling hot tortillas. The more I improve my petition, the fresher the tortillas are. This morning I got a quarter kilo straight from the machine.
And, the man in the park?
I’m going to leave him there for now, for I’m quite certain that’s where he’ll be when I head out next.
Lost in the Forest
–Amy Gerstler
I’d given up hope. Hadn’t eaten in three
days. Resigned to being wolf meat …
when, unbelievably, I found myself in
a clearing. Two goats with bells
round their necks stared at me:
their pupils like coin slots
in piggy banks. I could have gotten
the truth out of those two,
if goats spoke. I saw leeks
and radishes planted in rows;
wash billowing on a clothesline …
and the innocuous-looking cottage
in the woods with its lapping tongue
of a welcome mat slurped me in.
Read the rest at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43397/lost-in-the-forest
  • Get your speaker this lost; take her off course; plunge her into the middle of the motion somewhere she’s never been before.

Funeral Procession

FuneralI saw a funeral passing through the streets. At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Funeral processions are more common in small towns.
I was a block away and thought traffic was halted for a parade. Closer, I could hear talking, so I decided it was some sort of manifestation. I thought the low sounds I was hearing might be a recording of the ocean or waves. A few steps more and I saw the people were carrying white flowers and the sound was a funerary dirge.
I felt odd being a tourist, but that’s what I am here.
I watched them head up the hill with the elaborate casket and was alarmed to cross paths with the mourners again after two passes of the zocalo. They’d ambled kilometers and dampened the city more than the tropical storm, more than I imagined possible.
  • Ellen Bass, in The Thing Is, shares what it feels like when “grief sits” with us. It is different when it fills up in the streets and washes up on the sidewalks in song. Write about how we “withstand this” tremendous weight of grief.

The Thing Is

to love love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

from http://elliesway.org/poems/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw_o7NBRDgARIsAKvAgt1AjSbrwhYO89S49fkRQ1aDRv24fbG9ppDZ9EtFchXpdn00qRLo2wEaAu3QEALw_wcB

If you are looking for reading on loss, check out Naomi Shihab Nye’s What Have You Lost? https://www.amazon.com/What-Have-Lost-Naomi-Shihab/dp/0380733072/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503963720&sr=8-1&keywords=nye+loss