Chuilaju cried forth her women

into the dark hands

of each morning’s unnamed hours

to navigate hair-fine paths

that descend the rocky mountainside.

Worn loafers, scuffed galoshes crunched

the sandy trek. Turquoise, lavender, vibrant blue

salvaged skirts rustled in the torpid air.

Yellowed, fraying hems snagged protruding stones

threatened the five-gallon buckets

balanced on each ebony head.


Gathered from municipal pumps

daily at Quetzaltenago:

buckets emptied, rebalanced,

the demoralizing pilgrimage repeated.

Final descents rescued hope from the dump,

discards whose repairs or recycling

fed apparitions of destitution’s release.


At the center of Chilaju stands

a bold blue metal oasis.

Pipes fused with foreign alms

vivify the stagnant village.

Aurelia palms a propeller-like knob

to fill the three-basin tub.

Her hands hover in awe

above the rising water swirling,

saturating, rippling through the yielding fabrics.

Such freshness counters the big city,

distant Quetzaltenago,

now lying muted in white-washed aridity.

She smiles: pride creases her tan face.

The burden of survival lifts,

thick bonds of degradation snap

beneath this faucet’s modest flow.

Independence bubbles in the tub,

droplets of dignity drip from her fingers

as Aurelia washes clothes.