I took the slowpoke bus
which meanders through the tiny villages
edging along the cliffs
with a blithe driver chewing and chatting
and introducing me to terror.
At first the teenaged boys stammered
in their movie-learned American,
“Hey, sexy lady, you betcha.”
I have many brothers and I know
exactly how to convert
a flirt to a friend, and in Spanish.
The older women with chickens
at their feet, and a piglet in a basket
watched closely, at first
pursing their lips until I chastised
the rude boys and demanded their respect.
Then they clucked in approval
and added their remonstrances
to the sweetly cowed young men
who scrambled to offer me
the snacks they’d brought for the long
journey. I stood out with my long limbs,
the golden hair glinting on my forearms,
even though I thought my dark curls
might, what, fool them
that this young adventurer
casually landing in their backyard
could possibly blend in?
They knew me as I did not —
pinching my pennies and choosing
the cheapest way so I could stay
the longest possible time,
all the while an impossibly rich gringa.
And even so, they opened their cloth-
covered bags and shared empanadas
and tamales, their faces shining
at my sounds of ecstasy.
Connecting with my foreign heart,
by the end of the trip, they urged
me to come to their homes for dinner,
while the boys fought to carry
the bag I slung across my back.
I waved until the bus disappeared
and then set off down a narrow
village street, glimpsing the black
eyes watching behind closed curtains.