Poetry from Lorraine Caputo


 El Águila Azteca – Mexico City to Nuevo Laredo
 27 January 1997
 South of Tula
      we finally begin to escape
           the clutches of Mexico City’s smog
 The mountains are clearer
      winter gold speckled with
           dull green brush & cactuses
 A red-tailed hawk perches atop a budding tree
 Canyons sculpt the leached sandstone
      where dry arroyos wind like rattlesnakes
 We slow for a stretch where
      a train has derailed
 Metal power lines lay twisted
 The ages lava rocks, pale soil are charred
 Our locomotive hums as we
      pass by the workers repairing
           that other pair of tracks
 Broad-leafed nopales play patty-cake
      in the climbing sun
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
 La Guega, Querétaro is where
      our train meets the Juarez-bound train
           continuing on its north-bound journey
 & we wait here
      listening to a barrel-chested man sing
 He rests the accordion on his paunch
 It waves like the sea
      between his broad, longer-fingered hands
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
 At Escobedo, a woman stands on the platform
      twisting on tiptoes
           looking for her husband
               who’s inside this crowded train car
 She at last finds him & waves
 I’ll return soon
      he calls to her through the open window
           leaning over seats
 She nods & wipes away
      a tear with the edge of their
           infant daughter’s blanket
 Call, she yells
      putting thumb to mouth
           little finger to ear
 She smiles fighting painful tears
 The wife stoops to their toddler
      & whispers in her ear
 Then lifting her onto the other hip
      they wave good-bye to father
 She turns away with the children
      to stand beneath the overhang
           of the station roof
 Again she wipes a tear
      turning a bit from her husband’s view
 As the train pulls away, she smiles
      We’ll be fine, love
 & I see her tears shadow her face
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
 In a field dozens of men & women sow seeds
 Down a dirt path a woman balances
      a bundle of long-cut reeds
           atop her head
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
 I stand in the vestibule
      watching three locomotives pull
           of a long string of cargo cars
 They click by just feet away
 Our brakes hiss as we stop
 Like an old-time movie
               frames clumsily flowing from one to another
      I can see the village on the other side
           of that passing train
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
 The sky is lightening with the coming
      of another morning
           overcast & dull
 Leaves dance in an approaching storm
 White stone crumbles off the eroding
      mountains outside Monterrey
 The sierra further north
      is fuzzed by fog
 The rising sun goldens the open wooden doors of the station. 
 In front is parked the old black & silver Engine Nº 9 with its coal car. 
 The tarnished-brown station bell awaits to be clanged.
 Across the street, in the port, a large ship berths at a pier.
 Standing idle to one side, a leading crane flexes.
 Through this white & ochre cavern echoes the flight of two lost pigeons.
 On the other side of the gates separating lobby from tracks, a man
 sweeps the tiled platform with a wide push broom.
 People bound for Xalapa & Mexico City line up at Gate 5.
 Plastic tote bags, handles tied with a bit of string – 
 large boxes carefully wrapped around & around with rope – 
 small knapsacks all lie at feet.
 A mother holds her new-born child, 
 covering its head with a thin flannel blanket.
 Next to her, on a duffel bag, sits her chubby-faced son.
 He stuffs a stick of gum into his mouth & another.
 His slightly slanted eyes  squint at the pack in his hands.
 He stands up & offers a piece to his mother, then to abuelita.
 His tuft of black hair bobs as he chomps his gum.
 The boy walks away, pulling his sleeves over his hands
 & prances around the station.
 We are told to move to Gate Nº 4.
 Boxes & packs are shifted to the orders of the guard.
 & the young boy pulls his gum out of his mouth with plump fingers.
 El Jarocho arrives a half-hour late from Mexico City,
 amidst the blare of its locomotive’s horn.
 From its long line of cars – 2nd class, 1st class, sleeper & dining cars,
 its passengers rush towards the lobby.
 The young guard holds his automatic rifle off his right shoulder.
 His black pants are tucked into shiny black military boots, neatly laced.
 He commands us to form a single line, a single line.
 For the love of God, form a single line, I said.
 His hand rubs the stock.
 Suddenly he finds the gate opening out of his control, from the other side.
 He calls for our steady stream to have tickets in hand.
 The man before me shifts his box to one shoulder as he is stopped for his.
 Hurriedly I dig mine out of my pocket & the guard allows me to pass.
 People run the half-length of platform to where our cars await on Track Nº 5.
 They wobble under the weight of heavy bags & boxes,
 laughing at the insanity of the rush.
 & even I find myself picking up my gait to the closer car.
 Sunlight dodges the platform roofs 
 & finds its way into my window open to the morning.
 In the engineless passenger cars on Track Nº 4, 
 I see a man weeping the length, followed by another swaying a mop.
 On the other side of us clangs the bell of El Jarocho’s locomotive
 dieseling alone into the railyards, abandoning its red-striped blue cars.
 & on the platform between, a young cat ochre & white sits alone.
 (Santa Cruz to Yacuiba, Bolivia)
 Late afternoon       I float
       on this train’s requiem
 Brush scrapes the sides
       of the car       & occasionally
             reaches through my open window
                   to quickly tap my shoulder
 From the vestibule steps
       I watch the twilight countryside blur by
             & listen to the swooshing of wheels
 But soon I must leave
 Death has taken a seat
       next to me       in a toothless
             man chewing coca leaves
 In my hazed sleep
       ghostly history whorls
             in the dust of our journey
 Río Grande clatters by
       & the guerrilleros with Che Guevara
             watch my shadow head bob
                   in rhythm of this train
 Spider-web curtains drape
       from electrical poles
             to the thick vegetation
 In the new dawn
       a white calf bounds into
             an emerald forest
                   powdered by our passage
 Within the billowing storm we raise
       the spirits of a hundred thousand
             soldiers still roam this
             bloodied soil of the Chaco
 We are nearing
       the end of our journey
 The bright seven-a.m. sun
       glints off a blue-
             graved cemetery
                   nestled atop a hill 

Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appear in over 250 journals on six continents, and 18 collections – including On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Escape to the Sea (Origami Poems Project, 2021). She also authors travel narratives, with works in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and V!VA List Latin America (Viva Travel Guides, 2007),  as well as articles and guidebooks. In 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. 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 facebook.com/lorrainecaputo.wanderer or latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com

7 thoughts on “Poetry from Lorraine Caputo

  1. Pingback: Synchronized Chaos September 2021: Coming and Going | SYNCHRONIZED CHAOS

  2. You have a magnificent talent for conveying feeling and atmosphere through details that are so particular as to exemplify the exemplum: show don’t tell.
    I enjoyed these excursions of yours very much.
    Thank you and I look forward to future offerings from you!

  3. A fellow traveler who loves the details as much as I do.

  4. In Lockdown, I’ve just been on a wonderful journey, and I didn’t even have to buy a ticket. I always enjoy your work, Lorraine. Keep it coming.

    • Thank you, Ian. You’re always invited to join in my poetic adventures. Safe Journeys!

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