Evening bike ride to San Antonio Juanacaxtle

by Lisa López Smith

There are the last whispers of the jacarandas’ pale purple glow,
fields faded, the soil freshly turned.
There are the houses half eaten alive—naked, brooding & dark,
and the gusty roar
blinking back tears
on the downhill.
Past the Cataluña gas station where the white stone colossus,
Christ the Redeemer-style, has outstretched arms to embrace
the Pemex gas pumps below, the plastic bags are strewn like windblown
ornaments on barbed wire fences and
mind the pothole
we cruise along the highway with traffic lights but no intersections,
past the spot where the freshly hit horse laid—
and when we returned an hour later,
there was nothing left but the blood stain.

Distant diamonds glitter across the pond, alive with birdsong
and a lone cow lows across from the flower-laden narco castle,
which isn’t really owned by narcos, but is conveniently
only a few miles by tunnel to the Federal Pen which couldn’t hold El Chapo
the first time he escaped.
The open-air talavera shops under torn tarps are enveloped in artful dust
and a shiny new colt struggles to its feet
on the pastures of the Seminary Hill of the Jesuits—
that breath heavy, lungs aching hill! A roar of clouds,
grey glimmering, rounds the corner
where humidity collides with mountainside
and evening swallows swoop joyfully for the last bugs of the day.

Arriving at San Antonio’s village market:
rockets and bubble sellers, whole coconuts and bells chiming for mass,
corn cobs roasted on coals and tamale vendors,
fresh fried potato chips and hot churros.
At the chapel-sized church, the man with half a head begs for coins
and penitents enter on their knees, shuffling to the altar,
especially all the single girls from neighboring towns who come to pray
with an image of Saint Anthony—his bald head down & feet up—
until a lover appears.

Returning, we ride by corn fields and dusky blue-green agave lines
on hillsides red, past the cemetery of the blackened
Caterpillar grader that got torched when they were building the highway.
The night watchmen hover over their barrel-bound campfires and wave.
The silence of the long empty highway broken by breath or
gears changing, or guffaws from Chava and Carlos and Miriam,
and frog song from the bog.

Lisa López Smith is a shepherd and mother making her home in central Mexico. When not wrangling kids or rescue dogs or goats, you can probably find her wandering the wilds of Jalisco on bike or horseback. Recent publications include: Maine ReviewJabberwockSky Island JournalMom Egg ReviewWild Roof Journal, and Tiferet, and some of these journals even nominated her work for Best of the Net and the Pushcart prize in 2020. 

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