Xochimilco - Poem by Louie Vizcarra
The day independence was won
the sky was lit not only by a full moon
but with rockets, spiraling into the air
and raining down sparks.
The air in the village of Xochimilco
on the outskirts of the city
was full of mist, magic, thick smoke from rockets
and the pride of thousands of slumdog millionaires.
One of the poorest barrios of the Capital
put on the most fanciful and colorful celebration
almost in defiance of the poverty and cold.
Trumpets and gritos, along with shrieking whistles
could be heard in all the unpaved streets and alleys,
the street vendors busy
frying tortillas and filling them with beans
not even asking a price,
while children ran between people's legs
and donkeys brayed, pulling wooden carts, with their driver
Pasele y pida su rico atole! Pida sus ricos tamales!
Any other night of the year, as soon as the sun went down
everyone closed his door, locked his windows
and the streets were empty.
But nobody stayed inside his house on this night
for no one thought to rob, fight, or kill.
All were festive and laughing, patting strangers' backs-
everyone was your compadre tonight.
The hour unknown, uncared for, rather
as everyone took this night to celebrate
the victory of los de abajo.
Tonight I stand with Luna
among chilacayote crops and
enormous trees growing among the ancient canals
looking up at an enormous, white full moon
that lies watching this poor village
behind long yellow ribbons of sparks,
glittering tails of comets that chase away the
spirits of maldad and foreign oppression
all of this enchanting,
alien to my foreign eyes.
Tonight I sleep in a one room shack with a dirt floor
in a neighborhood of one room shacks with dirt floors
The palaces of true princes.
Tonight I will spend hours on the roof of this shack
watching this grand display of
victory, in the foreground of a peasant moon
shivering in the 35 degree air
drinking atole and eating fried tortillas filled with beans,
and maybe we will eat a little Chilacayote from the garden.
We are protected here, the glass pieces
cemented to the tops of the walls
will keep the monsters at bay
if they try to climb up and over.
Luna will run among the trees and bushes
chasing comet tails and howling in tune with the trumpets
howling a sad song of a bygone time
masking the many trumpet's songs of victory
scaring off the evil eyes that lie in the darkness of the tall grass
and making the Castilian blood spilled and soaked in the ground
long to rise up to meet the song in the air
to cry together with all the Aztec ghosts of this ancient village.
I will lie here in safety and silence
and think of 2000 years of Xochimilco nights.
This desolate, forgotten shantytown
one of many in this city
with more heart, history, and charm than any of the upscale neighborhoods
on the other end of town
where the pretty people play around a large table
sipping wine and planning the poor people's future
had my heart at hello.
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