The Poor of Aztlan

(The Barrio, Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico)

Toward the north across the border and into the desert
lives are husked by the hundreds—
Discarded bones.
Weathered carapaces of empty gear and empty hope:

In the barrio children beam and pass quickly
in fresh t-shirts and stiff new jeans on their way
to the serious business of escuela—of living—
carry heavy backpacks.
They half skip anyway bathed in smiles.Buenos días

An old man sweeps the sidewalk in front of his casa,
then about six feet into the street.
He and his home are no more than part of his barrio.
No less.Buenos días

Another, younger man stands stately by this morning too.
Repeats ritual Buenos dias, solemnly in desolate good humor.
Last night he had leaned against a battered white van in front,
another borracho lost in a vaguely expectant fuzz of alcohol.

This morning he is a neighbor again.Buenos días

The little ones keep walking by,
some mothers accompanying hand in hand or from behind
not quite willing to keep up with sillier energies. Buenos días

Delfina stands in front of her tiny shack.
Almost a child, too slim, mother of four,
knocked up at thirteen and not worth a statistic.

Her chabola proclaims her future.
She hasn’t one.
Delfina smiles. Waves.Buenos días

To the west, in the shallows off the beach at San Carlos—
dolphins, catlike, graceful, caress swimmers’ legs.
A dolphin bumps one swimmer gently, firmly in the belly
as though to warn him against the final reality.

In our distant mythologies dolphins rejoice to human presence.
Dolphin: from Greek, delphus: womb—
“We are mothers when we carry him in our heart and body through love”—

Or does the dolphin reject now the invasive species,
the dolphin’s unrequited?Buenas noches

Back there in the bahía though,
where a sewage pipe slops into the dubious clarity,
and a fish processing plant and a paper factory—
stench times three, industry pays, and reeks.

The poet’s Keatsian blunder: it’s Bruegel’s Icarus, not Dürer’s,
but the same white legs in Cortez’s water.

The poet’s place is the delusional mist on the near outside of the canvas,
helpless in the fogs of language and memory—
dis-focusing lost un-realities: the treacherous North.Buenas noches

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.