México makes lots of sense
To anyone who's ever seen
A fox get crazy in defense--
Outsmart running dog's routine:
A fox knows paths to higher ground,
And every dead-end found around;
Fox and howling dogs go running
Zig-zag down the scented trail;
Fox is needing all its cunning--
Hound dog's master wants some tail:
Dogs get lost on figure eights--
Fox heads for the farmer's gates.
México: the border town
Is something else--light years away
From tourist towns where gringos brown
Themselves, and nights go out and play;
Or villages: where people stare
Back at those vacationed there
To pick up on the real thing
To see what bargains dollars bring.
México is kept so poor
That you're not guaranteed your health.
It's something else rich folks ignore,
Because they can--behind their wealth.
México: world of its own,
Or not its own--indebted to
Bankers who worked out the loan
And loan some more when one comes due.
Hurting bad, a crying shame;
Buena gente-- who's to blame?
The U.S. beefs the borderline;
Migrants seeing nothing new;
When unemployment rates decline
Another jobs-bill gets pushed through--
Then crossing's easy like before
To do work gringos do no more.
Chilangos work in
Putting out small parts;
Or work in garment industries
For a gringo boss who starts
Business up with cheaper labor
Than his more established neighbor.
Everyone from Michoacán
Has picked the avocado--
Escondido's where they've gone.
From the coast to Colorado,
Hermosillo cowboys ride:
Ranchitos north are well-supplied.
Hysterics in the USA!
Nativistic votes ensure
That everyone is going to say
The bad news has a simple cure:
If rains could wash wetbacks away,
The weatherman would make it play.
Select committees argue morals;
Migrants on the line are starving;
Neighbors dying over quarrels
While a politician's carving
Out a name in solid rock:
Soon they own the goddamn block.
Camped beside dry riverbeds
Are waiting hungry migrant crews
Living in their cardboard sheds;
Brokers doing interviews
Except when winter rains come down--
Migrants lucky they don't drown.
USA: it's getting worse
Than all the world combined;
Complex needs become perverse--
The USA is stumbling blind;
Dying but no one will mourn
When little hope is being born.
All the moves are well rehearsed
Along the border migrant camps.
For some, the crossing is their first
Attempt without aduana stamps.
Others have been here before,
Swearing they'll get caught no more.
Difference clear as black and white
Is something you get at the border.
Through the fences, dead of night,
To the land of law and order.
Picture migrants get is this:
It's terror and the tender kiss.
The little man is acting brave,
He's never felt so strong--
A burning cross set on a grave
Is what he's waited for so long.
He drains his beer and comes alive--
Tonight his time just might arrive.
Four-wheel drive and Anglo drivers
Cruising mesas, canyons, hills;
Brotherhood of cruel survivors
Hope to chalk up border kills.
They help, they say, keep jobs secure,
And help to keep the white race pure.
A thumb is cocking back a hammer--
A pickup truck and good old boys;
They stifle quick the hammer's clamor--
One of them has heard a noise.
Someone's coming down the path.
Someone's going to meet their wrath....
Taxco is a mining
Built right on the mountain's side:
Everything's straight up and down--
Nail it fast or let it slide.
Taxco: tourist town today--
Sawtooth mountains in decay.
Taxco living on the tourist;
Europeans on the town,
Mining profits off the purist
Silver brought from tunnels down
To the mountain's very spine.
Europeans doing fine.
So are Japanese who came
A little later to the game.
Taxqueña's Taxco's daughter.
Taxqueña is the quarter moon
Shining on cool mountain water,
A cloud-like wisp late afternoon,
Hanging briefly in the sky--
You glance her way, and it's goodbye.
Taxco's peaks can hide the sun,
But when it's up it shines
So strong there isn't anyone
Who isn't thinking of the mines,
Or the moonlight's silver beams
Seeping through the mountain seams.
Slaves were first to work the veins
For copper bells and silver chains.
The quarter moon slips out of sight.
Taxqueña and her younger brothers
Whisper. Papa works at night.
Brothers hustle, sister mothers
Papa. Miner, mining lead
From Sunday on--the graveyard shift.
Taxqueña gets her daddy fed
In time enough to let him drift
Back to the mine and cool drafts
Rising from the sloping shafts.
Taxqueña hears the whistle blow
That starts another week.
She knows the days will pass by slow--
Today had been unique.
At the Sunday promenade--
Paséo just this afternoon,
Walking by, his smile made
Her smile back at him too soon.
She could have looked the other way.
Today had been a special day.
She met the perfect man, it seems--
Whose eyes spoke out aloud his dreams.
They climbed to where los ricos live;
He didn't ask. He let her give.
Taxqueña puts the food away--
Today, this day, this special day.
Tonight will be more special still.
Brothers sleep. She runs uphill.
Two chilangos on paséo
And the first time round he smiled:
Memo and his primo féo.
Paco, she thinks kind of wild.
She wonders why he smokes that stuff.
He needs a woman, that's enough.
His cousin Memo's not like him--
He hardly touches alcohol.
Paco's chances looking slim
That he'll survive himself at all,
Or mota that he smokes all day--
How'd he get to be that way?
"What way,flaca?" Paco grins.
She laughs again, his smile wins.
"Taxqueña set your heart ablaze,
But you'll get over her, no sweat.
There has to be a thousand ways:
Touch a live wire, sopping wet;
Eat los hongos till you're loco.
Or take the bus to Acapulco--
That won't make you better but
You could climb the cliffs that jut
Out to sea--climb up at night
And dive into low tides below;
Or better yet, against the light,
Cross Insurgentes real slow."
Then Paco laughs, "My primo's lost.
You've no idea what it might cost."
The serenading crickets cheep,
The stars above them chaperone;
Lover's whisper strong and deep,
Until their voices catch and moan.
Memo finds her, senses float
Beneath a touch and, oh, so smooth--
Clear and cloudy lotions coat
Their bodies; fingers gliding, soothe
The skin and spread the fragrant salve--
Warm and cooling like the dew.
They're sensing what they both could have.
They're clear as day as they come to.
Look at them, they're not the same--
Strong and deep their whispers came.
Lightning sparks across the sky,
Thunder rumbles overhead.
Thin air mountains amplify
The sound enough to wake the dead.
The ragged cracks light up the night;
Thunder stifles city noise.
The sky splits open, yellow-white;
For seconds, sudden lightning toys
With good and bad of us alike--
Anyone's unlucky strike,
Beckoned to a world beyond
By the devil's crooked wand
Conducting monstrous silhouettes
That roar as loud as Phantom jets.
Commuters in D.F. hop
Off the busses at a run.
You pay for rides but not the stop;
Driver's paid for runs he's done.
Cars, at rush hour, sit and fume,
Blow their horns and overheat;
Those on busses find no room
To breath, and most don't have a seat.
Traffic celebrating death--
Stoplights stop and start stampedes.
Cars spew out their cloudy breath
Careen through streets at breakneck speeds.
Marías, with their babies carve
Their niche on sidewalks. Calmly starve.
The cheapest, fastest way to go
To look for work or to your job
Is on the Metro, but riding's no
Picnic rush hour--people mob
The subway stations--shoving in,
Squeezing for a little space.
Afterwards a sheepish grin
Covers everybody's face.
It's bad enough, but people act
As best they can--no choice but take
The Metro to and from, jam-packed
Tight as hungry fits can make.
The Metro taps the third rail spark
And slithers off into the dark.
People quiet down and stare
At others, nothing, thinking;
Dreaming of the open air;
Counting stops made on the stinking
Hot and overcrowded train;
People sleeping on their feet;
Tired faces show the strain
Of being shipped around like meat.
Arriving at your job, dead tired.
México's a city wired
Ever since the feathered snake
Ruled the valley from the lake;
Ever since the god that gave
Them twin inventions--crops and slave;
Long before the broken bottle
Crowned high walls and ruined highways
The feathered snake, Quetzalcoátl,
Showed them how to plant, count days
And started up a ruling class.
Long before the priests gave mass
The people dreamed of paradise
It sometimes was when life was theirs.
Now the people sacrifice
Their lives relying on their prayers.
Minerals, crops and human beings
Aren't enough to satisfy
Countries that once sent Marines
But now come in and simply buy.
One question I could never ask:
Are people calm or wear a mask?
So patient. Never seen such
Patience. People have to wait
In lines or on a burned-out clutch
On a bus--arriving late.
No one there to give a ride
To those who wait so dignified?
They're cool--little by little learn
How the whole thing works because,
When they do, they're going to turn
One thing back the way it was
Before they had to comprehend
A force that ruled them to the end.
Problems that have touched the soul
Of México, they get
As something that's imported whole:
Foreign trademarks that offset
Like fingerprints from dirty hands--
Problems mother understands.
Murals covering city walls
Tell stories of conquistadors.
Big as life, each scene recalls
Terror when gunpowder roars.
But were you, now, to go down south,
No Spaniard tells you, shut your mouth.
Spaniards thrown out long ago.
In México, the murals show
Exactly how their history went
And Spaniards rate no monument.
Torture by conquistadors:
The murals show what Spaniards did.
What Anglos did in Indian Wars
The Anglo history writers hid.
Anglos, on the other hand,
Possess the Indians' northern land.
Those who wrote the Anglo's history
Had them come out looking good.
Anglos wrote off Wounded Knee
And took their act to Hollywood.
Indians' role was rape and ravage;
Sometimes got the noble savage.
Tenochtítlan, Aztec city--
Then big as any in the world;
Floating gardens kept it pretty
Before the Spanish flag unfurled.
Temple stones and plenty wood:
Spain built churches where it could
On top of temples first torn down;
Then came forts, and finally town.
Coyoacán is one such place,
Where Spaniards left more than a trace:
Coyoacán, coyotes there;
A church, a fort, Malinche's lair--
Home of ruling party's jefe.
Coyoacán is in D.F.
Swinging cans of wet cement
To his shoulders all night long,
Left Memo worn out. Aches torment
Him, but he's getting strong.
"And Paco, in four months, I know,
We'll save enough so we can go.
Then we'll make some gringo money
That's so strong it isn't funny."
Memo had a job that paid
Him walling tunnels being made
For the Metro. Paco swore
Up north they pay you ten times more.
He's digging ditches, laying new
Water lines--D.F. grew.
Paco digs through Coyoacán--
Busting asphalt, spike and sledge.
In a house that ran along
The narrow street and sidewalk's edge,
Lived some gringos--college kids
Attending UNAM, Paco bids
Good evening to a gringa there--
One young woman who would share
Her music, mornings--rock and roll,
Rockabilly, country, soul,
Music from her window which
Put some smiles in the ditch
Inching past her window now.
He's going to meet her. Unsure how.
Those few days he heard their tapes
His mind escapes through hanging drapes.
Paco hears a Creedence song--
Can't like them, and be all wrong.
One evening as it's growing darker,
Paco takes a magic marker,
Writes the band's lead singer's name
On the plastic shield around
The telephone where gringos came
To call long distance. One was bound
To find out someone's got a friend.
Writes in English, "Fogerty lives!
Oye! Up Around the Bend .
Then beneath the line he gives
A penciled number she could call--
His aunt, he thinks, won't mind at all,
He lived with her, she had a phone.
She took him in, four months, he said,
"Then I'll make it on my own.
By then I'll be enough ahead
To buy a ticket out of here.
I'll pay you back within a year."
Paco's dad had charged him rent.
Pesos Paco brought home went
Toward materials for the place
His father's building in the hills
Around Tacuba, all the space
That squatters took from solid fills.
His Aunt Rena didn't mind;
Her own son had gotten married,
Moved out. Rena was the kind
Of person who had always carried
On, helping family all her life--
Married up: a doctor's wife.
They had a phone. The number he
Wrote down near the ditch he dug
He'll soon erase. But first he'll see
If someone calls before kids bug
His aunt by calling up her number,
Disturbing peace and quiet slumber.
Maybe they're not all alike.
Paco's sledge drives in a spike.
One night after work his aunt
Told him that some gringa called,
A girl named Lisa. Paco can't
Wait to call back but he stalled--
Paco stayed up late and read
Until his aunt had gone to bed.
He's meeting someone from the States.
Imagine how the scene translates.
When he calls, to prove he wrote
Fogerty lives! He's going to quote
A single line Clearwater sang
That Paco knew down to the twang.
Paco can't believe his luck.
Can't help but wonder how they fuck.
When Paco called at first he got
A angry woman scolding him
For calling late. And she was not
A gringa. No way. She was grim.
He asked for Lisa. She said, "Wait.
Next time don't call here so late.
Best time is the afternoon."
La Dueña, Paco thinks, but soon
Another voice came on to say
"Habla Lisa, Lisa speaking.
Had you heard Clearwater play
From my room while you were digging
Up leaking pipes beneath the street?"
Claro que sí. I'd like to meet
You sometime. "Up around the bend?
Where the neon turns to wood."
"Como te va? How goes it friend?
Your English sounds pretty good."
All the English Paco knows
He got off streets and radios.
Lisa spoke Spanish pretty well--
And all her speech was proper.
Fresa, far as he could tell--
He couldn't wait to pop her
Fantasies of México,
And help a green strawberry grow.
She asked him if he had a car.
He laughed and told her he had far
To dig before he could afford
A car. And Paco didn't think
He'd live that long, his life's reward
Was not in paper blessed with ink.
She laughed, "O.K. Then can we meet
At Gandhi's, meet upstairs?
We'll have some coffee, maybe eat."
Gandhi's Bookstore. Tables, chairs
Upstairs where the students sit
And hear professors talk their shit;
Where philosophers profess,
Drinking coffee, playing chess.
Paco heard of Gandhi's, now
He'll see it for himself, and how.
Paco's nervous. He can't wait.
Who'd have ever thought he'd date
Someone from the states, and one
So different from the life he'd led?
No matter what, it should be fun,
If nothing else, fuck with her head.
Never been to Gandhi's but
He'll meet her there and find out what
A woman's like who asks a man
Out--and one she doesn't know,
Just because the man's a fan
Of Creedence from some time ago.
But Paco would have never guessed
How different she was from the rest.
She came from Berkeley, hip to scenes
Going down on streets today.
Radical, sure, which only means
She'd figured how things got this way.
Men can wave their magic wand--
She might give in. She's seldom conned.
She'd been part of movements which
Got her called some kind of bitch
For digging deeper into things
That happened when the telling rings
Hollow. Nothing to the story:
When news pretends all's hunky-dory
And next day claims mere aberrations
Explain what plagues the first-world nations.
Lisa's sister: dragged feet-first
Down college steps--protest to hear
Those who William Randolf Hearst
Would rather students not get near.
In México, same thing. Same side
Came on so strong that students died
Along with all the others who
Had marched to see some changes too--
All caught in the army's trap.
Tlatelolco! Check a map.
A place where history's underdogs
Called rulers down for dialogues:
Students rallied at the Plaza
Of Three Cultures de la Raza.
"Paco, would you take me there?"
He would take her anywhere.
He liked her and she liked him too.
Together they found things to do.
From Coyoacán they caught a bus
To Tlatelolco to discuss
Politics beside a church
That stood beside a pyramid
That laid in ruins. Her questions search
Out answers to what soldiers did.
"They tried to capture leaders so
They wouldn't let the people go."
Low income housing there enclosed
The plaza--people left exposed.
A holy place where Indian tribes
Had met the Aztecs once,
To talk of tribute, tax and bribes
That kept up peaceful fronts.
Tribes were slaughtered. Aztec rules.
In '68, we emptied schools
For dialogues with government.
Tlatelolco: army's sent.
Hundreds slaughtered. Thousands bled--
The '68 Olympic kiss
Of death--the leaders caught or dead;
Still thousands more who people miss.
The priests inside the church ignored
Screams and locked doors to their Lord.
"Student leaders speaking from
The balcony to folks below,
Watched a peaceful thing become
The shame of all of México."
Sitting on an ancient wall
They watched the ageless darkness fall.
"Fumas mota?" Paco askes her.
"Como no?" Why not?
Paco had some buds that were
Off some good Oaxacan pot.
He's crazy like a fox and smart:
Knowing when to smoke's an art:
Keep a distance, choose a place
Where the breeze won't leave a trace.
They got high and still as stone;
Went back to her pensión.
Drank some coffee, talked all night;
Made love by the morning light.
He didn't have to serenade
A woman who's so unafraid.
She was different, so was he.
Their love and politics were free
And brazen. Think they'll save
The world themselves, if they could pave
The way by breaking all the laws
They make to brace systemic flaws.
Civil disobedient scheme--
Independence was their dream.
Gringos ride the wheel wells
Or seats straight up against the wall
In front of toilets with their smells
Of chemicals and nature's call.
Initiation of the new-
Comers to a third world view.
Two days riding on the bus
To the border towns up north.
Grown-ups sweat and babies fuss;
Children running back and forth;
Pillows, blankets, kill the lights;
Tires whine through sleepless nights.
Tecate is their destination
Not too many miles
From Tijuana: immigration
Faces empty smiles
On migrants who will disappear
Before it's learned they're even here.
Memo and Taxqueña sit
Behind his cousin--Paco trying
Hard but finally he'll admit
The woman next to him's denying
Him the least bit of success--
She looks away, tugs down her dress.
Bussing from North Central station
To Tecate: two weeks wages.
Promises of compensation
On the other side engages
Hopes and dreams until frontiers
Open to strange atmospheres.
"Paco, better watch that shit
That you've been hitting on.
You just might get caught with it--
Hope it's not in Culiacán.
They'll fill your nose with Tehuacán
And keep you up from dawn to dawn."
"I'm warning you, you never know
Where a checkpoint stops the bus."
Memo grins and says, "I know
You wouldn't tell them you know us.
Chín! Ahora, como el rey
Y manaña, como el buey!"
Three Mexicans, arrived, and ready.
Tecate, near a chainlink fence.
Paco's smoking, cool and steady--
No end to Paco's confidence,
Matches counting up the tokes
He's taken on the bud he smokes.
The map that Lisa sent them led
To Escondido, but she'd wait
Near the border, where, she said
She used to camp--if they were late,
Even by a day or two,
She'd wait until they rendezvous.
"I'll meet you at Palm Canyon Springs.
Go by night so you're not seen;
Night-time, little sees and sings;
Rednecks here are awful mean.
One night's walking ought to do it."
Muchachos thinking, nothing to it.
Sitting where no one can find them,
Taxqueña whispers, "Wait, not yet."
As the moon comes up behind them,
Lovers watch a red sun set.
"I'm scared to death, what if we're caught,
What if I am--and you're not?
"Or vice-versa, Memo, oh,
I think I'm too afraid to go."
Taxqueña, she can't help but cry,
"Don't worry, chula, we'll get by.
We'll be seeing Lisa soon."
Teardrops streak. Up comes the moon.
"You have money Paco lent us.
We have maps that Lisa sent us;
If I'm caught you go ahead--
Meet Lisa like her letter said.
If you're caught, I'll give up too.
We'll try again till we get through."
They walk all night. All day they hide
From cars they see from far away,
They see them and step off the side
Of the road, they sit and stay
Hidden till the car has passed--
Such a day would go by fast.
Palm Canyon Springs, desert side
At Mt. Laguna's base.
As evening lets the darkness slide
Through and take its place,
They near the spot where Lisa said
They'd rendezvous--campground ahead.
Country hills patrolled by those
Who keep the boundaries wide and close
Them off to anybody who
Ignore frontiers like migrants do.
Driving backroads late at night,
The moonlit hills look hard and white.
When you see it otherwise,
It's brown foothills and sun;
Summer has almost begun.
The days are hot, the nights are cold,
The evening sunset warm and bold.
Introducing Johnny Smith,
Acting ugly, talking tough;
Living out the tough guy myth;
He's angry, says he's had enough.
Johnny's hearing voices now--
Paco's been explaining how
To curl your body at the base
Of brush mesquite and hide your face.
"Be still whatever gringos do--
Even if light shines on you.
Be quiet and don't move until
The night is absolutely still.
"But if we're caught, remember to
Run different ways, O.K.? .
La Migra works in teams of two--
They won't catch us all, no way.
Besides, they're all too fat to run--
Don't worry, they won't use their gun."
They're suddenly standing in the beams
Of a pickup's lights a ways
Up a wash. Like in their dreams
They try but they can't seem to raise
Their feet that cling to earth like roots--
They run the second someone shoots.
Mexicans are lying still;
Some good old boys are looking;
If they can't catch them, daylight will.
Some good old boy is cooking
Closing in where Paco hid.
Paco never prays, but did.
Memo's thinking, "Fuck it, Paco,
Paco just get up and run."
Someone yells, "We got our taco--
Hey, it's time to have some fun."
Paco's smiling to appease.
Memo prays, "Don't hurt him, please."
"Gilbert, rig the two-byes up,
While I dig ourselves a pit.
We're going to make the wets wise up.
White folks just won't take this shit.
Johnny, tie his hands and feet.
Looks to me like taco meat."
The man digs out a shallow grave;
Man called Gilbert made a cross;
Post-hole at the grave's foot gave
Them a place where they could toss
The two-byes in and make them stand;
Paco's dragged across the sand.
They laid him in the grave and soaked
His clothes and hair with kerosene;
And all the while Johnny joked,
"This taco meat's a little lean."
Joking Johnny thinks he's hot.
A shriek behind the rednecks shot
Through the night, the 3 men jumped.
"Paco, squeeze loose from the ropes!"
One who held a shotgun pumped
A round at Memo, Paco hopes
That Memo gets them after him--
Try in vain to capture him.
They start the chase, Johnny screams,
"Hey! Let him go. We got our man.
We'll give the one that ran bad dreams.
He can watch the Ku Klux Klan
Work their wonders with a cross.
Johnny, pour more taco sauce."
Rough and twisted, talking brave,
Klansmen kicking ass;
Paco's lying in his grave,
Soaked with kerosene and gas
They splashed on last. They tied him to
The cross with wire, lit and threw
A torch into the grave. The flame
Burst and bolted up the cross.
Memo screamed his cousin's name,
Paco screamed, Dios, no mas.
The cross was fire straight from hell,
In it, cross and Paco fell.
Memo runs, his shadow falls
Up the wash into the sky;
Dropping to his knees he crawls
And convulsing, starts to cry.
Crawls through brush and into where
He dies each time he smells the air.
Avocados hanging from
Their branches reaching to the fioor.
Dark leaves, year around become
A canopy and hothouse for
Teardrop fruit the tree is bearing--
Emerald gems the tree is wearing.
An avocado off the branch
Is breakfast early morning;
Lisa leaves her father's ranch
Red skies giving warning.
Her father, gray and wrinkled man,
Chides her for her hippie van,
"Honey, when you going to trade
It in for something nice--
Can't your wise old dad persuade
You to follow his advice?
Get yourself a little truck--
"Dad, you know the mini's suck.
"I'll give my van up when I give
Up camping out alone"
Her father breathed an expletive,
Only making Lisa groan,
"With Tillo, Daddy, I'm just fine."
Lisa's dog: one big canine.
"Lis, get married. We'll see about
Paco, fact, can't wait to see."
"You'll like him daddy, and I doubt
There's anyone who's more like me."
"That's what I'm afraid of, sweet."
"Funny, daddy. Paco's neat."
She kissed her father, said good-bye.
"When should I begin to worry?"
"Their letter said they're going to try
For this morning if they hurry.
We'll be back before tonight."
"You give your daddy such a fright."
"They're worth it, daddy." "But of course.
Be careful how you drive.
Weekend drunks are out in force--
I want my daughter back alive."
She kissed him once more on the cheek,
In the sky red colors streak.
Down the driveway Lisa drove,
V-dub bouncing like a boat
Through the avocado grove.
Her father made a note
To get his daugter's van some shocks,
Though rather put it up on blocks.
Through the night the fire burned,
They drank and shot their guns;
Adding kerosene, they turned
The fire all night--now the sun's
Rising. They get set to leave.
Memo wants to not believe.
Drunk and mean, they take some speed,
And piss on Paco's grave.
Hatred's something rednecks need
To save the flag they wave.
They exchange one more high-five
And climb into their four-wheel drive.
Tires spin--spit gravel, dust,
Clouds spewing in the air
As the four-wheel drive is thrust
On the asphalt highway where
It points north for 78,
The speed comes on, they're feeling great.
Taxqueña, Memo says her name
Which catches in his throat;
Taxqueña, her name finally came--
Spoken. Broke. Remote.
Faraway, Taxqueña stood
Behind a patch of ironwood.
She moved, he saw her. She stood still
To wait for him to come
Through the desert air until
He touched her, then fell numb
Against him, her face streaked with tears
She pressed her hands against her ears.
She won't look up, she's listening for
A voice that's strong from deep inside
To tell her she will see no more
Of nights again when Paco died.
She won't look up, she feels ashamed,
Surviving while the cross had flamed.
Surfaces begin to dance--
Shimmy, shake, like wavy air.
Eyes glazed like she's in a trance,
She's feeling Paco everywhere.
The rocks, the air, the scrub mesquite;
A lizard on a rock for heat.
Memo's crying. Stone-faced crying,
Anger steeling through his grief;
The cross, the fire, terrifying
Christians with their cruel belief.
It's all a dream. It had to be.
But who could dream such cruelty?
Taxqueña, oh, Taxqueña, oh.
Near impossibe to speak.
He walks away, "Taxqueña, no,
How could I've been so weak?"
Moon is sinking now behind him,
Rising sun and hot tears blind him.
They walked to where, last night, he screamed;
Nightmare long ago it seemed.
They walked to where the fire burned,
Wood to ashes, blackness churned
Into the earth with marbled patches
Blinking rainbows crystal catches.
Memo's fingers gently scoop
A piece that softly crumbles;
He walks a little ways to stoop
Down for a can and tumbles
Pieces through the hole on top,
Like soft pillows, pieces drop.
"The can's your home till we get back,
Then I'll find for you a nice
Pot that's shiny, smooth and black--
Oaxacan black clay paradise.
Quinta. Panocha. Warm ollón,
One that you can call your own."
He puts the folded beer can in
His sweatshirt pocket, finds their jug
Of good water that had been
Near the shallow grave they dug.
As long as they're considered prey,
They're going to travel now by day.
"Paco, if I find the men
Who did this to you, if and when I do,
I'll take what they love most,
Cut them off and chop and roast
Them over fire. Carne carbón.
Someday, Paco. Pinchi cabrón."
Her sunrise ride is nearly done.
Lisa's almost there.
One last stretch, at last the sun
Is warming up the air.
Faraway she sees a cloud
Of dust and Lisa says out loud,
"I hope they're leaving. Hope it's not
Some three wheeler camping
Up the canyon. That's our spot.
Don't want to see some yahoo cramping
Me when we camp at the springs."
From the stretch the highway brings
A truck in view that's heading straight
Her way and she thinks, "Good.
They're leaving. They must know I hate
Camping in a neighborhood."
The truck is speeding, drawing near,
And tore past like a chard of fear.
Three heads turn to watch her pass.
"Gilbert," Johnny yells,
"See that hippie piece of ass?
The smell of pussy rings my bells.
Hey boss, turn the truck around,
Lets chase this pussy to the ground."
The driver spun the steering wheel
Stepping on the brakes.
Turned around, the rear tires squeal
As the pick-up takes
After Lisa's hippie van:
She's going to meet the Ku Klux Klan.
As the truck pulled up beside
Lisa's V-dub, Johnny stuck
His body leaning half outside
The window of the pick-up truck.
"Wanna fuck", he stretched and howled--
Lisa's dog beside her growled.
"Assholes," Lisa swore but she
Was getting scared, the pick-up nudged
Her van, and she began to see
The rednecks in the truck had judged
Her to be beneath contempt--
Like the worst nightmare she's dreamt.
They bump her van once more. She keeps
Going, she's afraid to stop.
She's knows the likes of these three creeps
Don't worry 'bout no cop.
But maybe they'll just run along
After they show her how strong
A redneck can be, one who's drunk
Enough to think he can
Show her something she wants sunk
Six inches making him a man.
Johnny's boss bumps her again.
The van rolls off the shoulder then
On its side it slides front first
Into a pole's guy wire fixed
In deep cement. A van the worst
Thing for head-ons. Her blood's mixed
With dust, blood spilling from her head.
Beside her, Lisa's dog is dead.
Gilbert wants to help her, but
The driver, his boss, asks him what
Would cops think when they see
The scratches on her van agree
With his truck's paint. "Let her bleed.
It's murder high on booze and speed."
They drove off and Lisa died.
On 78 they headed west.
They climbed the Banner Grade and ride
Into Julian beside the crest
Of Mt. Vulcan, Johnny's dropped
Off in town, but while they're stopped
Johnny's boss says Sunday he
Needs any help that he can get;
"Getting out an order, see,
Why don't you pick up a wet.
As many wets as you can find.
If they can't weld, we'll let them grind."
That day Memo led the way
Through dry mesquite far from the road.
Heading north, the desert lay
Down from mountain tops that glowed
From sunshine bouncing off the rocks
As big as houses, granite blocks.
All day they skirt the coastal range--
Lagunas on to 78.
Climb to feel the weather change;
It's midnight dark. The road runs straight
Through a town and turns left hard:
A dog's left barking in its yard.
Apple trees all in a row;
Through the rows spring breezes drawl;
Like snowfall when light winds blow,
Petals from the blossoms fall.
Apples set, grow ripe and red,
They're picked and sorted in a shed.
On the mountain's ocean side
They slept until the dawn came on.
Memo's tired but now they're wide
Awake to see their second dawn.
Traffic breaks the morning hush,
They stand up in the heavy brush.
"Hey, amigo, ven aqui
Come over here," the driver called.
Memo's sure the man can't see
Through the brush where they had crawled
When they heard the pickup come.
For being seen he's feeling dumb.
They both climb into the truck--
The gringo's got a job for him;
Then the recognition struck;
Beneath the cowboy's Stetson's brim
Was a face that he could name--
He knew his voice, the very same
Johnny Smith, who was the one
Who helped drag Paco to his grave;
Johnny's talking like he'd done
Nothing more than misbehave.
This weekend he wants Memo to
Come show his boss what he can do.
"We want to see if you can weld.
You've got a good job if you can."
Taxqueña took Memo's hand and held
It tight and Memo formed a plan.
God must have meant it, Memo thought,
But got to keep from getting caught.
In the middle, silent, still
Taxqueña leaning hard
To Memo's side, they race downhill.
Johnny pauses to regard
Taxqueña, looks her over good--
What he'd do her, if he could.
Memo has to hide his shaking;
Johnny's driving to a shop;
Country town--the shop was making
Trailers. Johnny makes a stop
For a sixpack of cold beer.
Parks in back, says, "You wait here."
They reach the shop, the foreman's there;
A biker type--a beard, long hair;
Boots and levi's, voice was gruff--
A voice that Memo recognized
As the midnight riding tough
Who was the one who organized
The band that he and Paco met
Two nights before and now
Memo's just another wet
Who's asked if he knows how
To weld, if not, then he can grind
Off slag the welders leave behind.
Taxqueña's shown a place outside
Where she can sit and wait all day.
In the shade she'll try to hide--
Staying out of Johnny's way--
Johnny and his hard blue eyes,
Johnny Smith, one of the guys.
Foreman and his Sunday crew.
"We're set to get that order out,"
Johnny tells the foreman who
Asked Johnny Smith to scout
Around for extra help to meet
A deadline--one they had to beat.
Foreman and four migrants work
Hard all Sunday day.
Johnny Smith, he gets a perk
But gets no extra pay:
When he wants, he takes a break,
Drinks a beer--a Sunday flake.
After work the foreman runs
The migrants out a road;
Pulling his van up someone's
Driveway to unload
The Mexicans. They have a shed
For sleep and getting themselves fed.
The shed's owned by the owner of
The shop in town--the owner lives
Further up the drive above
The chicken shack the owner gives
The Mexicans to live in while
They're supporting his life-style.
Owner never works the weekends--
Sunday's spent at home;
That's the day he usually spends
Working on his Caddy's chrome.
That's the way he earns the drinks
His wife allows to ease the kinks.
The foreman walks up to his boss,
Talks polite and smiles nice;
Boss calls him by his first name, Ross.
Ross says, "Yes sir," twice.
"We hired one more wet today.
We'll get that order out, O.K."
"Fine, but keep the wet you hired,
We've got an order after that.
When it's out make sure you've fired
That son of a bitch who sat
Out the weekend for a raise--
Can't count on help you get these days."
Down below the migrants show
Memo and Taxqueña where
They'll sleep--a shed that's long and low,
Windowless and far away
From anybody's casual view.
Nothing much, but it will do.
Memo's shown another perk,
Slacks white collar workers wore--
Trousers he can use for work
Lay in boxes on the fioor:
All colors and all kinds of fits
Of city thrift-store double-knits.
Habache warms tortillas up,
Pan of beans and stringy meat.
Someone offers them a cup
Of coffee, asking them to eat
With them. It's natural they would share:
A pot, a spoon, no plates, no chair.
The Mexican's they're eating with
Are Mexicans like them:
Conscious of the Aztlán myth--
The place where their dreams stem,
The truth within it being sucked
Dry as rivers gringos fucked.
Sun goes down and there's no light;
Mattress: piss-stained, old and torn;
A jacket covers them tonight.
Memo still can't sleep, he'll mourn
For Paco, praying for the rest
Who come north hoping for the best.
Ross comes gets them with his van
At daybreak Monday morning.
Just before the work began
He starts out with a warning:
"Remember when your job is done,
Come find me for another one."
Ross speaks Spanish, enough for work--
The tools and the jobs he knows;
Johnny Smith talks like a jerk--
No sense of feeling and it shows;
All he know is naco slang--
Que pendejo. Redneck twang.
Johnny Smith is still draft age--
Talking tough of wets and niggers.
Like us, working for a wage,
But one of those who figures
He's going to be the boss one day--
Watch you don't get in his way.
Johnny wears his hunting knife,
Tattoo, earring, iron cross;
Black eyes worn by Johnny's wife
Every time he hits the sauce.
At the shop he kisses ass.
Now I ask, does he have class?
Like a fool I shot my mouth
Off one too many times.
Johnny's twelve points kneecap south--
He packed the load with dimes.
Oh boy, Johnny goes for broke--
Johnny, can't you take a joke?
Can't get closer than I've drawn it:
Johnny draws a bead;
I made a point, he pushed me on it--
Can't just let it bleed:
Running with the Ku Klux Klan
Somehow can't make you a man.
"White Power," flew from Johnny's lips,
He must have heard me say, "White Trash."
He swore he took no shit from flips--
Came on redneck in a flash,
Yelling, "Fucker, let's get down,"
When I called the clown a clown.
CB, spotlight, four-wheel drive--
Johnny burns the cross.
How's a white boy to survive
Unless he's acting boss?
Cruises at the midnight hour
On the border with White Power.
The sun is coming up now so
They hike into the trees.
They find a spot, a spot they know
No one finds them but the breeze
That's blowing from the ocean side--
They go a ways downhill to hide,
A manzanita patch does fine.
Lay down looking up to dream,
Green leaves cut the rising shine;
They dream while leaves above them gleam
With dew, the sunrays bursting through--
Refracted light--their stars to touch.
Memo's thinking what he'll do
To Johnny. Question was, how much?
That night they take the road through canyons
That bring them to the desert floor.
Rattlesnakes for their companions--
Snakes never bothered them before.
"Don't tread on me," the rattles go,
Like what they say in México
When they see the gringos tramping
Over beaches through the sand;
Say it to the tourists clamping
Hard on dollars in their hand.
Tonight they hear coyotes yipping,
Running down the night-time game.
Past high clouds the moon is slipping--
Everything looks just the same.
Since last Monday Memo knew
What the Klan had plans to do.
Taxqueña's with him; half-way there,
Breathing in the mountain air.
Next night, Friday, coming down
The mountain on the desert side;
Passing through that funny town
Where dogs barked like it's homicide.
Took the road at Scissor's Crossing,
Turning south, they're getting near;
Further up is Johnny tossing
Back the last of his Coors beer.
Then he heard it, heard a sound--
From the truck, steps to the ground.
I saw Johnny, Monday, hey!
He made the morning news.
A missing ear. What could I say
Except I guess you lose.
"Que pasó? You say your Buck
Just ran clean, shit out of luck?
Your buddies heard the puppy yelp
But didn't come in time to help?
Who'd you catch and try to nail?
I see they nailed you.
Met your match on some dark trail?
What's a good old boy to do?
Riding for the Ku Klux Klan,
You thought, somehow, made you a man.