juarez (some then but mostly now)

my parents pose in black & white
in a styleline convertible
their saturday drive to juarez
for tequila
& cheap newports

the place is the same
just 60 years older. peeled paint
& american factories
blight what was spoiled already
in digital color

a man spits tobacco juice
dark as liver failure piss
near my shoes, says
i’m less afraid of gangs
than police or army,
they have better guns
but that same swagger. be careful
of the eyes you meet.

my mother’s carved mexican
a souvenir, a reminder of how
she learned broken spanish
spiced with tequila, but that
was her juarez,
not this crime scene now.
he balances on my palm
neckless,
his head tilted up
& mouth stretched
to hold toothpicks
in a bristled scream

the army guns are better
says the spitter
& their colors more muted
but they all wear the same stink–

metal & blood
lipsticked on the wall
tattooed on skin. a haloed saint
weeps between the shoulder blades
of a sniper.

there are as many churches
as bars here, but how
will we worship
in juarez? humility is easy
this close to dirt, but
not faith. prayer
this breath of hands
fanned against plaster roughness
or cracked concrete

keep lying down.
if you kneel you die.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
This entry was posted in New Free Verse and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to juarez (some then but mostly now)

  1. annotating60 says:

    I really like this very much. I think it is a bit confusing in the fifth stanza, but it begins and ends strong.>KB

  2. jmgoyder says:

    Absolutely brilliant and that last line was a knockout.

  3. Trent Lewin says:

    I respectfully disagree with my friend KB, the fifth stanza is the best one. This is a good one, bits of angry Susan are here.

  4. ruleofstupid says:

    An interesting departure from your recent poetry. I’m left feeling I want more to ground myself – a little more narrative certainty about what’s happening. But some strong images and a powerful ending.
    P.S. I note 500 followers today – Congrats 🙂

  5. Green Speck says:

    This went on like an adventure … very well illustrated !!!

  6. Leo says:

    Very powerful; you seem to have a knack for stepping into other’s lives and cultures…keen observation. To me, the third stanza, considering the context of the poem, renders a horrific image; a man his mouth forced open, stuffed with sticks….was this intentional or accident? My favorite of yours in a while! Leo

    • Thanks, Leo–hmmm–I meant to present a horrific, unreal but unfortunately very real place. Yes, my little serape’d toothpick holder/carved man that used to be my mom’s was meant to be rendered as disturbingly as possible….sounds like I did it. I will have to flesh this out a little more this morning, I think.

  7. nelle says:

    Good ones, and particularly love ‘humility is easy
    this close to dirt’.

  8. ruleofstupid says:

    Ok, so this is a terrible thing to do, but I did it anyway. I’m offering my edit, not as better, only as my edit – to be considered / ignored or whatever you see fit. Essentially it’s just easier to say “here’s what I’d do”, than try and explain it.
    For me the second draft is a pendulum too far the other way, though now I have more I am much more connected to the piece… So maybe this as a ‘middle’ way (hyphens are just to stop WP ‘auto-formatting the spaces out)… (p.s. please don’t shoot me! ;))

    my parents pose in black & white

    in a styleline convertible
    
to juarez for tequila

    & cheap newports

    the place is the same
    
in digital color
    
a man spits tobacco juice

    dark as liverish piss
    
into the street
    
says “I’m less afraid of gangs
    
than police or army,
    
they have better guns
    
but that same swagger. be careful
    
of the eyes you meet.”

    I have a souvenir from juarez
    
my mother’s carved man in a serape,
    
balanced on the flat of my palm,

    head tilted up & mouth wide
    
to hold toothpicks
    
in a bristled yawn

    she brought him home
    
to the el paso base
    
the night she drank 3 margaritas

    & learned how to say por favor,
    
gracias & tengo dinero

    “the army guns are better,”

    the spitter says
    
& the colors more muted
    
but they wear the same stink–

    metal & blood
    
lipsticked on the wall
    
tattooed on skin. a haloed saint
    
weeps between the shoulder blades
    
of a sniper, framed.


    how do we worship
    
in juarez? humility is easy
    
this close to dirt, but
    
not faith. prayer
    
only breath upon hands
    
fanned against plaster roughness
    
or concrete

    keep lying down.

    if you kneel you die.

  9. hmmm. Will not kill you for this 😉

    The first draft was too sparse, the second too flat–I am going to print & compare all three and see what I come up with, doing a side by side comparison…

    Thanking you much for your input!

    • ruleofstupid says:

      Pleasure. I like collaborating as long as ideas dominate and not ego’s (mine can get carried away – I’m just a man after all ;))
      For me there are dark and interesting connotations in the second draft – when your mum speaks, that are lost in the third. Otherwise it’s good.

      • 🙂 thanking you again! While I like that part where my mom has a voice in Spanish, I do feel it spends too much time on my little carved man, so it had to go, although I did like it, almost as much as I like my little juarez toothpick-holder man. 😉

  10. doncarroll says:

    strong with a great ending !!

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