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This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Speechless

Once upon a time, I won a Fulbright-Hayes Grant to travel for 4 weeks with a group of USA teachers in southern Mexico.  We studied how the old and the new co-existed and enriched each other in order to create new curriculum for our classrooms.  For our protection, we stayed together in good hotels, drank only bottled water, and stuck with the program rather than wandering off by ourselves.  The program was jam-packed and well-planned to avoid the stereotypical.  I saw a Mexico that I never knew existed from amazing food and hospitality through knowledge of the past and innovation for the future.  I also saw Zapatista and government forces, both armed and ready.  I especially loved the native healing, clothing, writing, and languages I met in San Cristobal where the story of this poem takes place.  The world speaks of these diverse peoples as Mayans.


The 4-year old and I put fingers at
our own lips and stared at each other.  We
had the same vocabulary—me in
a new language and she as newer life.

I thought she’d never seen such ignorance
in adults and I ducked my head, shyly
offering her té de manzanilla,
my drink of choice in plaza del pueblo
Jovel—
 
San Cristóbal de las Casas—

I loved the feel of these words and the tastes
and sounds of Jovel.  The child was ready
to join me at my table for tea, but
she froze abruptly when el camero
rushed to kick her out.  I asserted She.
Is. My. Guest.  Bring her tea and—
I pointed

out menu items to her, asking Si?
Si? until she said Yes. And I ordered
two, one for her and one for su Madre
who watched from her post low on the sidewalk.
I bowed to Mother while Daughter brought her
food, and stood until the child returned.  Then
we began our Spanish-English lesson. 

Yes, they were beggars and I was tourist-
quarry, but I could not eat with Euro-
Americans and Spanish-Mexicans
high above unwelcome Indo-Natives.
I felt ashamed and exposed. I gained a
language coach and memorable day.
No, I don’t remember her name or our
words.  In her language, I remain speechless. 



Written for Brian's MeetingTheBar ~ When words fail at dVerse Poets Pub.

Copyright © 2014  S.L.Chast



24 comments:

  1. What an encounter Susan & I love that ending ~ Travelling and conversing with the locals are the best if you want to know and understand and speak a language ~ There are many nuances and expressions beyond the mere sounds ~ Thanks for sharing your story ~

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  2. This is wonderful Susan--what a wonderful experience! Smiles!!

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  3. Poetics of the heart can flounder into saccharine treacle, but not yours. I smile, weep, cheer for the extant morality that you exhibited; perhaps this is how you are all the time; if so, terrific, bless you--but certainly on that day your spirit guides were generous with your love potions, paying forward without a plan of reciprocation; wow.

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  4. Such an artful and insightful glimpse of speech in repose. Thank you.

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  5. sounds like you broke several cultural barriers that day...not just language but of social standing and perhaps opened the door with a bit of compassion as well...which will bridge gaps where language sometimes can not....hard when you can not fully communicate linguistically but we can reach beyond those barriers....

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  6. Even without uttering words things can still be communicated. It is something very true when dealing with children! Great write Susan! Thanks for sharing!

    Hank

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  7. oh wow... you've done a beautiful thing susan...if only more people had the courage to break those cultural and social borders that divide us

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  8. Some of the old ways have wisdom of the ages - we are so quick to want to discard them.

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  9. That is a wonderful thought as we go to new places and we communicate its is hard to understand how people react whether its good or bad

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  10. What a beautiful and thoughtful write, Susan. And what a wonderful experience you had and what a touching story. I am sure that the 4-year-old has remembered this experience too.

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  11. The story is enchanting.. I especially like how you convinced the restaurant to serve them food.. And I know that children can communicate so well without words.. One way to connect that always works.

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  12. Sounds like a beautiful experience, and one you obviously are glad to have had. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

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  13. Wow ..that 's a beautiful experience..thanks for sharing it:)

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  14. In her language i remain speechless ... great ending line ... and what an interesting experience you had, Susan. Love the Spanish words interspersed in your poem :)

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  15. How kind you are. I love this story and I'm sure that is one little girl that will never forget you.

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  16. What a lovely story and so beautifully told, Susan. Really well done, both as experience and poem. k.

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  17. a heartfelt meeting that was! how some people remain with us beyond the moments with them!

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  18. Loved this....wonderful experience...I remember my father saying about having tea with little boys who sometimes work in restaurants......about their reactions and expressions....Thanks for sharing...

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  19. This is wonderful. I wish I could have been there with you.

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  20. Great response to the prompt...there are other ways to communicate and you found them...they love it if you at least try..and they know a sincere heart when they meet one...and kindness knows no boundaries...the indigenous poor appreciate your efforts.

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  21. "me in
    a new language and she as newer life"

    Such a lovely, heart warming tale.

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  22. Wow what an experience! Impressive as ever Susan

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  23. Susan, I've been there with the classist structure of - if you can believe it - Bermuda. The original indigenous peoples, darker than the Euro-Indig. biracial. Also the same in Puerto Rico.

    But this writing, filled with thoroughly understandable espanol (lo siento, sin tilde), is wonderful, especially the way you not only told the establishment but how you quietly impressed upon that girl an important life lesson: Self-esteem. Good for you! Thanks also for commenting at my blog. Yes, "concealed carry" is scary as hell... especially thinking of upcoming PRIDE marches and political marches to come... Amy

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  24. This is so moving, and powerful. Thank you for sharing this.

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