Learning Spanish Accents in Zacatecas, Mexico
High on the bluff we hear
blue-tile cathedral bells tolling
subjunctive moods, 36 noons,
corazon, boom midday when we’re far
from Dona Julia’s gorditas.
Toiling up the steep we spied brown
eucalyptus recovering from late spring
freezes, green at base, straw-crowns
conjugating upon the breezes.
Armin, not native here, nor his cello,
asked in halting second level speech,
Hay un fuego? because he hasn’t
learned the past nor present perfect.
For transplants, both imperfect now,
the future declarative of silver:
a freeze will burn, and burrowing
will have brought a hard light to light
that men die for even today.
I am in the listening phase,
above the colonial city where saints
have no hands, and I strain
to hear the verb married to the noun.
When I hear las campanas, recuerdo
present tense perfectly:
Recuerdo haber ido.
I could listen all day to the bells
of Zacatecas, their stem-changing verbs
and their grammar of weather.
At the summit, the sun rains down
an imperative: don a broad-brimmed hat.
Our tall teacher loses his hat
but not the long-striding
verbs from Villa’s vantage point.
Nouns fly by on black wings
as Armin and I test objective
pronouns slowly on swollen
foreign tongues. At La Capilla
del Santo Niño, quadriceps
burn against gravity
as we stare at the alphabet
of black stones.
By the callejón, El Indio Triste,
I am the direct object of shade.
The legend tells how his passion
for the governor’s daughter
burned in the freezing springtime.
When we descend into the mine
by centuries-old steps, I clutch my hat
to my chest, and my pupils widen as
electric light bulbs pop out
turquoise veins in the dim
from damp rock walls.
What stories the minerals
hint at, of lives like candles,
slaves who mourned daylight,
birthright not yet a word
in their disappearing language.
Robin Scofield is the author of And the Ass Saw the Angel as well as the forthcoming Sunflower Cantos from Mouthfeel Press. Her poems appear in The 2River View, The Warwick Review, and The Mas Tequila Review. She has also been published in The Paris Review and The Texas Observer. She is a contributing poetry editor at BorderSenses and writes with the Tumblewords Project in El Paso, Texas.