Some Thoughts on Birds and Trees…
found in a beautiful purple basket in our room. On his shirtback, an amoeba of sweat hangs, and in it, I convince myself I see the face of the Virgen de Guadalupe. He wears yellow suspenders, and the perspiration-Virgen is turned toward the left strap, her lips parted in profile, as if she too is making a mad dash through every supernatural good book between sainted death and Oaxaca City, wiping the cataracts of iconism and paranormality from her eyes, for something, anything that resembles a banana. I feel you, Virgen.
The sun warms the creams, peaches, impossible blues of the squat, square buildings, blues that hurt the eyes, some arctic royal jugular spilled, diluted with the depths of some children’s book sea, and somehow going warm. Louisa and I mask ourselves with drugstore sunglasses just to look at this building, to swim in its moony Mare Incognitum, to protect ourselves from afterimage blindness, and the necessity of murdering our garden swallows for a cure. We have lost the suspendered man around the corner of an orange stucco Bancomer in front of whose ATM stands a two-hour line worked by an army of beggar children. Beyond them, above them, motherly but aloof, the red sand of the surrounding Sierra Madre del Sur range does a cheer with countless iron-green pompons of creosote, sage, agave.
And we push through the quiet streets, mere decorative balls of fluff ourselves. Freshly laundered sheets and vests hang from their lines waving like dead men. In the air, the wind carries their astringent
soap—not floral, but florally drowned, petal sloughing like skin from a fingertip… A grandmotherly woman in a small stone yard unravels a black blanket and strings it heroically over the line while whistling an aubade for mandolin and snare. As we approach the Zócalo, people begin to approach us, selling beads and scarves, pink flans in plastic cups, tight rolls of LifeSaver mints, and fresh ruby prickly pear. I try to envision the blood, barely cooled that ran along these streets.
“I think I am in love with this place already,” Louisa says, “it’s like an antidote for Mexico City, which I also thought I loved, but I’m not so sure anymore.”
I apply this sentiment to cancer and Chicago and mothers and the States, as if all four were places. Things to move to. Things to move away from. Just before we emerge into the Zócalo and its jumbled score of music, voices, shoes clapping stone, a small girl in a yellow sundress steps in front of Louisa and, without pause, pushes the faded purple inner clamshell petal of the banana flower into her hair above her left ear. The girl scuttles away uphill, without discernable guardian, her small hands over her mouth, stifling some kind of joy.

Connective Tissue Conquista

Even discounting the swallows, the population of Oaxaca speaks