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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