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Mexico rises into view like a textbook description of a dead civilization;
its silhouette piercing the scaled soil, the streaks of afternoon mirages,

the caliche billowing across the windshield as my mother pulls into a roadside
stand. Still a few miles away, and I already see how poverty mimics

the effects of age, how it wears the fragmented skyline with corrosion,
subtracts layers of durability off a building's frame; how the city mirrors

the black-and-white photos of abandoned war zones; how a fence can lose
its purpose, become symbolic, while the river below it bleeds a history

of unsuccessful bodies no one ever claims. Before we cross over, graze
the peripheries of those who haven't tried their hand at an exodus—

the barefooted boys selling Chiclets, the old and toothless women seated
on the bridge, the sleeping infants strapped in serapes to their mothers' chests—

we weave, like we do every weekend, through rows of shoulder-high water
pattern-painted pots, and ceramic statues of Aztec gods ready for someone's

each a variation of mud-brown and red, and as hot as stove-grates when I run
my fingertips along their rims, note the way my mother does the same.

She doesn't pull back though, doesn't squeal or flinch, her endurance for pain
callused on her hands like the callused face of the old woman on a lawn chair

beneath a tarp, where they begin to make small-talk in their muffled
Mexican tongues. Behind them sits the woman's Chevy, whitewashed

and windowless, its bed stacked with the inventory she didn't take down,
and I recall those playground jokes about how in spite of the small space

they have, Mexicans can fit anything inside a car; a punchline that whether I
funny or not, I imagine she'll embody when she towers her ceramics back

her truck, aware that even as my mother scans the worn-out price tags
of each pot, we aren't going to buy a thing. And as they exchange a few nods

like outdated currency, I watch the old woman's hand reach out and touch
our shadows the way old women touch everything that isn't theirs, feeling

the indifference with which we slip between her grip, how the sunlight cracks
our skin like pottery as it breaks.

Esteban Rodríguez

The Florida Review

Volume 41 Number 2 2017

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