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.



Los Andes Nubes

Ella no es una campesina sabia
Who tells tales of wisdom
Scaring her neighbors
With insight and magic spells

However, she knows a good cloud,
When she sees one, extraordinary,
In a common sky
An amber organic urging, bobbing
Black specks of insects
Caught inside a tight embrace
Backlit by a dying sun.
On this quiet Sunday evening
She drinks Tinto Chilean wine,
Doña Dominga.

The morning after, when the sky is flat
She refuses to get out of bed
Reading a book about horseracing,
Betting, greed and breaking
Hoofs, they deafen her mood
Until flat grey clouds
Flee into the perfect ogee curve
Of a long eucalyptus leaf
As if cut with fine silk scissors.

She lifts her limpid body
Out of her stupor, stretches her arms
Towards the sky and spots a house
At the edge of the clouds
She wonders what it would be like
To live side-by-side to sky dreams

Ella no es una campesina sabia
Who tells tales of wisdom
Scaring her neighbors
With insight and magic spells.

Recicladores of Avenida Molina Mora

From early dawn until noon bright blue,
garbage bags accumulate on the sidewalk.
Sick with the flu and unable to leave my apartment
I watch the embarrassing mass from the fifth floor.
Across the street two indigenous women sit
on the shadow edge of a window sill
surrounded by shopping bags
four white buckets with lids
bundled scarves, shoved behind a lamp post.

One woman wears a tall white Panama hat,
like a floating pie in the sky,
a dark magenta sweater on a red velour skirt,
thick with pleats.
Another dressed in a turquoise sweater,
on a cobalt blue skirt,
carries a dark green bundle
crossed over her back, most likely an infant;
unaware of garbage bags.

Slowly they rise from the window sill
Cross the street with buckets in hand
bend over blue, white and black plastic bags
searching with bare hands
for banana peels, egg shells,
papaya leftovers, fish bones,
wilted vegetables, smashed fruit or coffee grinds.
Sweating in the heat of the day, the women wipe
each scrap deep into the white bucket.

Unknotting and knotting, their skirts scallop
in yellow, green and red embroidery,
with shimmering golden sequins,
best suited for dance.
The infant slides from hips to buttocks
towards hidden treasures,
a subtle rhythm
of harvesting waste
penetrating deep inside pores.

I cannot take my eyes of them,
spellbound by the overflowing garbage,
the women carry full buckets
back to the other side of the street.
On the edge of the window sill they rest;
no words, no gestures, no hurry
they wait for backs to relax muscles tight
from lifting garbage bags, rotting waste
for pigs, perhaps a single cow, and stray chickens.

An old man arms watches from the sill’s edge
as the women tuck vivid skirts under broad hips
to sort their gleanings on the cool pavement.
With my binoculars I make out each item:
a pair of “gold” glasses, a little book, a ceramic picture
a mechanical toy, papers, folders.
Handed from woman to man to woman
glasses are tried, books turned upside down
and separated into shopping bags.

Stepping away from the window I almost did not see
the two small women, infant, and old man,
with buckets and bags tied high on their backs
disappear into the traffic of snarling taxis and cars.
As if by clockwork the garbage truck pulls up,
young men toss recyclables and trash up into the air,
hours of women’s diligence erased in minutes.
Perhaps I will buy a bucket, save my scraps
for the Recicladores of Avenida Molina Mora.