It rained hard in Uzhupud

It rained hard in Uzhupud
a good cotton sheet of rain
the grass, trees, birds, nose, limbs, unwind
a three centimeter orchid out of a blanket of cobwebs.

Before the rain the orchid hid like a delicate insect
in the shade of a bright yellow Fresno tree
but now it imitates a spoiled sister
monkey with candy striped apron wings.

Oxygen squeezes through half open
(continuously half open, oh who knows old age)
esophagus of  the woman’s aging body
and massages her lungs like poetry.

A bit of rough flesh and rippling muscles
reveal stories no one cares about.
What stories are those? Who are they? Watch out,
she may snip tongues in the afternoon wind.

Her memories play with near edges of music
Angelo Romero is singing a bolero
a silhouette of window frames looks for stability
and words turn to every angle of the edge

while she waits for Manuel and his loud bitch
~it could be as persistent as a bark from the distance
to arrive in his mixto white-green-striped taxi high
on the hillside or at the corner of her property.

Once she accused him of a local robbery
and said, my name is Magdalena Johana Maria
he threw up his hands eyed her sideways
reeked and shook hands

Manuel looks after the old woman now
with his sugar moonshine eyes eyeing
the gun toting neighbor Homero up the hill
twice a day, while the bitch barks guilt over fences.

What if it is rainy or foggy and the breeze kicks in?

Then Magdalena sips cedron and mint with honey
and refrains from cutting the bitch’s lungs
with blunt scissors, like a proper gringa
until the late afternoon winds have gone.


The Chilean poet Bolaño once said

I watched clouds break, crumble and scatter
like Baudelaire’s clouds would never do.*

Baudelaire said**

~I love the clouds…the passing clouds…up there…up there…the marvelous clouds!

Grey ones afar and white ones near, clouds can rupture
this is how literature is made
any day in Ecuador, or anywhere else.
Poetry is not innocent.

You ‘d better get used to it
Bolaño said
An individual is no match for history

I ask how things were in his Chilean land
but he does not answer.
He died in Barcelona

I try not to digress to homemade Snickers
and gooey caramel sweets in marvelous clouds

You ‘d better get used to it
Bolaño said

When the sounds of black insects and worms
whisper an unfamiliar syllabus to the poet exposed
to bright sunlight at noon
it brings Nothing
Only dry bones in the yard
unattended by the white dog

I can string cloud words
together in slender sadness
in exchange of choked

roots of the willow
Beware, a tree in winter may

*By Night in Chile
** The Stranger

The Old Man on the Bus (in the Andes)

He was beautiful
I watched him enter the bus,
looking intently at who was sitting in front
He scanned the seats,
perhaps someone would get up
offer him a seat, but everyone pretended not to notice.

He stood close to where I was seated
hung onto the metal sweaty rails, resigned
used ropes looped around his hands
dirty white and blue
wired to catch a horse, a cow, or a calf,
precisely then, an animal unexpectedly caught.

A young woman with tight pants
her black hair pulled back
voluptuous and respectful
like a ripe mango, orange and full
offered him her seat.
The warmth of her buns and crotch held him tight.

This old Latino man sat straight,
his salt and pepper greased hair
chiseled by a small black plastic comb
into a sharp line
of a distant plowed field.

I could not take my eyes OFF of him:
his wool shawl wrapped over his extended
chin, his cream colored sweater brushed,
but his hands, his finger nails, full of dirt
tapped a young woman’s back with child
and offered her his seat. She refused.

He sat down again, chin forward,
a narrow mustache above his lip
a well worn life line.
In the middle of nowhere, in a narrow rocky valley
he got off the bus, a lonely
striking old man. I felt left behind.

La Tarantula

In my dreams, resistance
breaks up
into miserable robberies
and unforeseen killings,
dead on
I cradle hilarious laughter
in soft flabby arms
like a mother holding her infant.
My life depends on this

When a big black spider
perhaps a tarantula
crawls under my blanket
I slash its hairy legs
with a machete
too many times
until my love pulls me towards him
and quiets my fear.
My life depends on this

The spider never knew resistance
It never knew what bad dreams
can make a woman do.

The next morning
I awaken with a dry poisonous throat
The all-legs-shriveled up spider,
La Tarantula,
lies on my pillow,
like a worn-out mandolin,
a pear shape, with a
severely damaged fretted neck.

La Tarantula had smoothed pine beams
tree sap, tiny amber nuggets
frozen in time.
in search of her mate.
My warm body obliterated her
in the middle of the night.

I rest with La Tarantula
my eyes wide open, vigilant,
her filaments, drying like angel dust,
detach deliberately from my sins
until there is no trace, no shadow
My life depends on this.

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.

Los Dos Dios Toros of the Cloud Forest

(The Two Godlike Bulls of the Cloud Forest)

Yoked together for hours, perhaps days
Los Dos Dios Toros stand stock-still,
Dark brown, solid, omnipotent,
Fastened to each other
With wooden yoke and abandoned plow.
They wait for a human
To steer them through difficult soil
It does not occur to them they can till
The remainder of the field
Of their own accord.

I watch them for hours, staring
As sweet mists roll, in and out of
The Cloud Forest of Rumi Nuñurco
Barely noticeable, the toros pull on each other,
When they feel like it
The one on the left, the one I favor
Is in charge, maybe
No, the right one is heaving
A minuscule exhalation, infinitesimal.

In the drizzly balmy air
The left one lowers his massive head
Into the sepia black dirt, intoxicated,
He smells the uneaten hairy
Spiders and finger thick worms
Breathe their way up to the cloudy peak
Where waxy wine red
Bromeliads, suspended off rocks
Drink the high mountain air
In religious reverie.

I forget to watch
When the Dual Crowned Toros,
Step out of serfdom
And turn a quarter of a turn
A Los Dos Dios Toros turn,
So swiftly, I forget to watch
When for a moment
They touch hidden tufts
Of glorious green grass
I had not noticed before.

La Danza de Vaca Loca

When the vaca loca arrives at the fiesta
In paper mache, hollow bamboo horns
Filled with wrapped gunpowder
Black and white belly extended
Tailed by a bass drum,
A brass wind instrument and a flute
The old woman can not resist
Lifting la vaca loca over her head.

Her tongue clicking inside sunken mouth
Hollow in the cow’s belly
She skips wildly into the night air.
Firecrackers, spit from her horned head,
Flames, grab plumes of pampas grass
Light up the sky
Blinding her in and out of dark shadows
Where she succumbs, kneels under,
Her dance over she is nothing
More than a ghost of the night

The vaca loca, a black and white carcass,
Left on damp grass
Slowly relinquishes her red scarf
Swaying, switching, stretching
The fibers wrap her tightly until
Shrouded, she rests
Out of reach of the crazy cow.

Nubes de los Andes (Spanish translation)

(Traducción en Español de Sara Vanégas Coveña)

Ella no es una campesina sabia
Que cuente historias llenas de sabiduría
Y asombre a sus vecinos
Con intuiciones y mágicos hechizos

Pero conoce una nube buena
Cuando mira una, extraordinaria
En un cielo común y corriente
Una mancha oscura de insectos
Agitándose en un ámbar orgánico
Atrapada en un estrecho abrazo
Mientras el sol se pone
En esta tranquila tarde dominguera
Ella bebe vino tinto de Chile,
Doña Dominga

A la mañana siguiente, cuando el cielo está claro
No quiere salir de la cama
Lee un libro sobre carreras de caballos
Con apuestas, ambiciones y rotura de pezuñas
Lo que la desanima
Hasta que unas sencillas nubes grises
Escapan dentro de la curva perfecta
De una larga hoja de eucalipto
Como cortadas con tijeras de fina seda

Entonces abandona su languidez
Ya fuera del letargo extiende los brazos
Hacia el cielo y descubre una casa
Al filo de las nubes
Se maravilla con lo que podría ser
Vivir envuelta en sus sueños de cielo y nubes

Ella no es una campesina sabia
Que cuente historias llenas de sabiduría
Y asombre a sus vecinos
Con intuiciones y mágicos hechizos

(for English version see below Los Andes Nubes)


Clouds of Glazed Orange Marmalade

Elongated hands and fingers
extend into clouds
of glazed orange marmalade;
upper draft winds metamorphose cumuli
into long necked alpacas gliding
towards mountains near dark,
until their silhouettes vaporize;
no sound comes forth, only the scent of the night.

Clouds, shadows of mountains,
inhale cold curves and edges of heat
rising from ridges and valleys
oscillate into high cirrus clouds;
pure white tufts of mare’s tails,
curly ringlets stolen from young girls
licking ice crystals, playing hopscotch
spurred on by the wind.

In a small village, called Dug Dug
locals pray for rain
carrying a blue statue of Guadalupe
towards the mists of Mount Ñuñurco
their sturdy, squat bodies
weary of straining and failing crops
sing a lilting song joined by rockets
a shrill cry invoking far away clouds.

That night a cumulonimbus, a thunder cloud,
cracks the sky wide open.
I duck down, breathe carefully, count until ten
stretch my limbs toe to toe
and listen to the hard rain crash on my roof.

Clouds, such a common name,
they remind me of freshly laundered
white sheets, oblivious, that they too
were soiled and creamy
before scrubbed and washed.