ZÚcalo, Tlaxiaco, Mexico
by Robert Joe Stout

Traffic clogs as an old pickup
tries to wedge its way between cars
jammed against the curb. Amid a swirl
of dust and crumbs pigeons whirr away from kids
charging a rag-stuffed soccer ball.
Church bells drown out shouts and curses
as a priest, wind whipping his black hassock
around cuff-rolled jeans, waves a clutch of women
towards the cathedral’s worn stone steps.
A pair of taxi drivers hunched on wooden crates
move bottle caps across a checker board
painted on a cardboard box; one glances up
as though to say You want a ride? expecting me
to answer no but feeling he’s obliged to ask.
I sense a tugging at my sleeve and turn;
a grimy face beneath a tattered leather hat
grins awkwardly. No… I start to answer
but he waves his hand and mouths his way
around not want money…just to talk
in English that I somehow understand.
Smile twitching heavy jowls he tells me
planting sapling pines in Idaho, dry walling
in Cheyenne (ice on curbside cottonwoods),
the migra, jail, cholo gangs.
“And now I here,” he shrugs and thanks me,
turning as he shambles off,
“I like up there. I think soon I go back.”

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