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,
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.