Poetry from Lorena Caputo


We pass a young boy herding four yearlings. They startle at our engine’s grind, the glare of headlights, the shrill horn. In the dawn twilight, other trucks and combis are pulling up. Their passengers climb down, heavy bundles and baskets over shoulders, and enter the market yard.  

The Sunday market in Yerbabuena is one of the largest in the region—and one of the few traditional trueque (bartering) markets that still exists.  Folks have come from the many small villages and hamlets in this Utcubamba River valley, between Leymebamba and Chachapoyas.  

Tarps are being stretched over rickety wooden stands. Offered wares are set out: horse tackle and ropes, sandals and slingshots (for hunting) made of old tires, produce from highlands and low. Wood fires in the comedores spice the growing morning.

Soon the bustling hustle is on.  One woman offers half a saddlebag of corn for plantains.  Yonder, a family is their calf.  All around people are trading pottery for produce from a chakra (small farm), or well-bundled kindling for a trussed chicken (no doubt, this afternoon’s almuerzo). 

I have nothing to trade—but soles (the local currency) are accepted for the bread and avocados I buy before hopping a truck towards the Revash ruins.


18-19 March 1994 / Oaxaca to Mexico City (El Oaxaqueño / 2ª class)

I awaken at about 4:30 a.m. Our train is winding deep within the folds of the Sierra Madre. This night is frigid. I dig out my sleeping bag.

A father in one seat holds two of his small children tight. They wear only light cotton shirts. They might be migrating from the warmer lowlands – from Tapachula on the Guatemalan border, or perhaps from the Tehuantepec isthmus. 

On the floor across the aisle, the mother shares their only blanket with the two younger children.

I unzip my sleeping bag open and hand it to them for the night. Father smiles and folds it around his son and daughter. Soon they fall asleep.

I put on another shirt and button up my jacket. Huddled within my seat, I watch the night silently slip by.

Across & across miles & miles of flat, dry-green savannah, the land rolling towards dark-treed mountains dressed in clouds, blue crystalline sky brushed with nebulous white, sunlight sheening off rivers graveled tresses braiding. Shadows sink deeper, rose perfumes periwinkle clouds, the setting sun honeys the grasses & trees of these flat, rolling sabanas, scattered settlements gather like the foothills, like the cumulus over that now-nearer sierra. Climbing through three lo-o-ong tunnels & finally into a high valley, pallid indigo sky stippled with clouds, the mountains covered with low brush, dwarf trees, cacti, bare rock folded, twisted, tilted by the millennia … all lost in the dusk.  

Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose writings appear in over 400 journals on six continents, and 23 collections – including In the Jaguar Valley (dancing girl press, 2023) and Santa Marta Ayres (Origami Poems Project, 2024). She also authors travel narratives, articles and guidebooks. Her writing has been honored by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and thrice nominated for the Best of the Net. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at www.facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or http://latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.