San Blas, Nayarit
(a poem for four voices)
I walk into the coolness of the old church. The late
morning sunlight beams through the tattered
In the center of the nave, the dead Christ bathed
in his blood lies still in a glass coffin. Slips of paper,
people’s requests, scatter his robe.
Through this stillness I walk, beneath the gaze
of a dozen saints guarding prayers held by
the weight of lit candles. A trio of pigeons fly
from the beams.
In the mid-afternoon sun & sea breeze, two young men
race their horses down the cobbled street, towards
the beach. One boy gains speed, whipping his horse’s flank
with a rein of yellow plastic rope.
The fishermen pull their net towards shore. Villagers run to help.
Working with the sea, they bring it in, pulling with each ebb,
relaxing with each flow. Frigate birds circle overhead, swooping
towards the net full of jumping silver-bodied fish.
Each person receives two. Soon the smell of smoking fish fills
the waning afternoon. Mariachi musicians wander down the beach,
into a wave of butterflies, carrying their silent instruments.
Twilight falls over the zócalo. The loud shrill of zanates fills the trees.
Jejenes silently bite tender northern skin.
Children play tag in the bandstand. Parents watch them from park
benches, talking amongst themselves.
On another bench, a North American sits, a pin-encrusted cowboy hat
covering his bald head, plaid shorts revealing plump tanned legs.
Children selling tamales from buckets, gum from boxes, wander
towards him. He shoos them away in English and mutters
Damn, when I say no
I mean no
Other curious children are drawn to him. To each he gives a piece
of candy. Once more he migrates here to this southern coast, fleeing
the northern snows.
A young man walks across the plaza, straight-backed, his hips swaying.
He gazes over his dark shoulders, tossing his long wavy hair with
a fine-boned hand.
The zanates wildly dance in waves of flight, from tree to tree, across the zócalo.
Under strings of electric lights, a woman calls for lotería players
For two pesitos
you can win a bag of groceries
The retired North American shakes his head at her invitation to join
& yells out
I don’t know Spanish
People sit at the wooden tables, choosing bingo cards. Children hang
over their shoulders.
One the count of three we begin
Uno dos tres
As each card is turned over
& held aloft El pescado
she announces the objects La palma
Kernels of dried corn cover bingo squares La Garza
Children eagerly point El borrcho
to near-missed calls La estrella
Through the starry sky La luna
the crescent moon boats La dama
From a near-by stand La sandía
a woman sells cups of melon El camarón
In a courtyard El valiente
a few blocks away El perico
don Alfredo’s parrot El sol
cracks another sunflower seed La campana
Some players shake their heads El gallito
at their slowly-filling cards El músico
Others excitedly place their kernels El árbol
At last the cry comes
The anxious woman’s card is checked. With a gapped smile,
she accepts the heavy, full bag.
The next round of lotería is announced
Por dos pesitos
van a ganar
Players leave & new ones sit at the wooden table, choosing their cards.
I awaken once more from the sting of jején bites. Up on the roof,
standing beneath the black sky shot full of stars, I watch the mountains
surrounding the bay silhouetted against the lightening rose-grey sky.
Rooster songs flow through the sleeping town. Waves crash in the distance.
Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator and travel writer. Her works appear in over 200 journals on six continents; and 14 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017) and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She travels through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels at: www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or https://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.
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