Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pet Parade Poem--So Many of You Have Asked


Shoulder to shoulder, with our sun umbrellas
and stadium seats, baseball caps and tubes

of SPF 30, I see the cashier from the carnicería
on Cerrillos, the retiree, the roofer

from high on Agua Fria Rd., the high school
teacher and downtown jewelry-maker.

And their children--ponytails, midriffs,
Raiders t-shirts, high-top Keds. This is a city

of markets, fiestas, community days, 4th of July
pancake breakfasts. If familiarity can no longer

gather us, then fry bread and Navajo tacos--
no matter how long and slow the line—

or a tortilla and bowl of green chile stew.
Grandma sits next to me on the curb

with no more short term memory. She tells
Serafina, her fidgety great-grand-girl,

about the way her father used to keep butter cold
in 1926 on the porch of the house in Española.

A system of shelves and wet canvas in the shade,
chilled by the summer breeze. Serafina says, “Wow,

Grandma, you ARE old,” and swings her monkey
purse over her left shoulder. These days

the city seems split in isolated directions—
east-side, Airport Road, Park Plaza,

and Casa Solana. The eighty year old
next to me says, in his day, all Santa Feans

lived in all the neighborhoods, at fisticuffs
or pleased as sardines. Today, it’s the saving

grace of the Pet Parade: goldfish bowls
in red wagons, a golden retriever in tails,

someone’s ferret in disco glitter. Is it
dogs in drag that bring us together?

There’s a pueblo song that calls
the four directions so many times

I nearly believe we have come here
for some kind of blessing. Like the bones

of the skeleton, in that Hispanic folktale,
coming together to grant the courageous

the chance to do good. Or the Puritan,
Jonathan Edwards, writing persons of all

nations and all conditions. These four
third-graders, dressed up like daisies

and tethered to three family cats form
some kind of unlikely and fabulous family.

And here we are. My sister says, “stop
asking me and just eat your chicken-wrap

burrito thing.” When she leans forward
I see the purple shadow on her lower back--

mark of the Moors, they told Mother,
distant remnant of old, bloody Spain.

There are no simple answers there, just
a chubby blonde girl throwing candy

from a wheelbarrow, the strangers
across the street rubbing upper arms,

the seams of the city zipping up
at the threshold of donkeys and pet snakes.

Grandma says a veces la gente necesita
juntar codos. It’s true, we’ll never

own things equally, agree and agree,
but there are days like this, lucky crush

and mosaic of blue jeans, baby bags,
sun hats and cowboy boots. She’s right,

of course. Unlikely, mismatched, contentious.
“Sometimes, people just need to rub elbows.”

Valerie Martínez

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