Rationalizing Privilege in Atzompa

A dry, hard lump, the shriveled foreskin

corn husk embalms

the white masa and a brown stain of cooked pork.

Eyes first, she offers me the tamal.

When I lift it from her grasp, her split palm opens

like dry-lipped mudcracks in Arizona in June.

The fissure on her hand crosses the life line, the love line, x-ing them out.

My pocket shimmies with coins and they fill her craters.

Here I am, hopping buses across the clay-rich countryside,

a region of Mexico that quenched Spain’s gold throat nearly five hundred years ago,

and to take a bus this woman, who could be

my great grandmother, who could be dead by now,

must steal her way onto the bus, slipping off ten minutes into the ride,

in the back pocket of a family.

It’s not about the wad of week-old tamal

or about the fact that it costs the same as the bus ride,

and that, this time, she pays it up—clinks into the driver’s neat stacks of change,

still warm from my pocket—

but feeling the gold marrow of my body

blushes my neck and my face contorts with…

pity.

And I don’t want to have it, to be burdened with gold teeth,

but now that I am, I must eat wedged tamales until I die of thirst.

I sit in my bus seat, knees pulled tight to my chest,

hugging all the pieces of myself, terrorized by their departures from each other,

by growth, by intellect, by simple observations.

 

-Zoë

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