Ayudame, Help Me Help You

She came down the steep cliff
crumbling dirt and rock steps
from uneven rock to uneven rock
twisted in grey dusty shoes

She was mud brown, thickly creased
A purple skirt, a knitted sweater
And the white, indigenous hat.
Her body bent into her step
retracing, grabbing for grasses.
Her right arm flailed, tottering,
sliding, sitting, missing her feet.

Oh my god, Daniel said
as we waited for the red light to change
Oh my god, I have to help, I said.

We were in the middle of a bad curve.
Our car could be hit
at any moment by an errand truck
barreling fumes and blowing
dust in and out of potholes

I was in the middle of pushing numbers
on the iphone for saldo, for dolares
but dropped it on the car floor
Later we could not remember
what happened to it.

I impulsively ran up the cliff path
and said to her, ayudame, help me
and I knew I said it all wrong
Her eyes nearly stopped me.

Who are you? Una gringa bruja angel?
I reached for her hand, she smelled
strong of old body oils and cheese
strong of old organs knitted in place.

Oh no puedo, no puedo, she said
as she poked her walking stick
in the unyielding ground for life support
No puedo, no puedo.

I gently pulled her down towards me
and wondered how much she weighed
If she fell on me, I am little,
we would both fall
towards the busy road below
where cars and trucks crossed
into our corners of safety.

My hand was wrapped around hers
into an inescapable knot
I considered briefly
I might be bruising her hand.
Perhaps in her mind
I was forcing her down the path

She mumbled, “morir”, and prayers
perhaps Seven Holy Mary’s
but I heard only three
as we worked our way
to the edge of the road
where she disentangled my hand
straightened herself up.

A thank you smile worth
an ocean of rushing words
spilled over me.
Had I helped enough
or too much?

Ayudame, I knew I said it all wrong.

When I left her
she was still poised on the cliff side
close to the road
She probably had done
this a million times.

Ayudame. help me help you.

The Old Woman Who Ran


She scared the daylights out of me
we were driving 90 Kilometers
on the autopista from Cuenca to Paute
Her skinny legs spread
her bare uterus forward
shrunken in oldness
into the furthest lane
just like my 95 year old mother-in- law
bony, not seeing, blind

I watched the old woman as she leaped
across three lanes
my love and I were a la izguierda
in our red Peugeot 206
close to the metal divider
She never looked up
until the last minute
her and our minute lasted forever
her death timed across the highway
disintegrated into wrinkled lips and eyes

I saw her flying in front of my eyes
red skirt spread apart, skinny legs towards the sky
a puppet, an illusion
Her face in the windshield
was too close.

I screamed NO, NO, NO
just as my love turned the wheel a la derecho
missing her, missing her by a heart beat
a split second in two
My love would have been a murderer
in jail, so close
but he saved her, me and himself
avoiding his mother, all mothers

The woman who ran
was blessed by Jesus El Poder
the One who roams Ecuadorian roads,
protects giant trucks, local blue buses
daily life in every Andes village
and Us.