La agua de México

On early morning sidewalks
beneath soiled skies,
residents and shop owners swab away
yesterday’s footsteps.

Gaunt men with yellow brushes
clean Benito Juárez’s bone-white marble feet.
Young boys wash two cars
from a single pail of sudsy water.

Near the corner stand
bicycle bells scratch through the morning
as vendors transfer a slab of ice from bike basket
to orange plastic crate
where it will take all day to melt,
cooling the jumble of Coca, Pepsi, Peñafiel.

In la catedral,
a mother holds her little daughter to the font
guiding her hand – forehead, chest, shoulder, shoulder –
then helps the girl kiss her thumb
before they hurry down the aisle.
A fledgling priest begins Mass
with bursts of water from antique aspergillum.
Plumb-bob chandeliers
illustrate the tilt of the old church,
pulled down sideways into the ancient Aztec lake.

Delivery trucks honk their way
through complicated traffic,
their cargo of 20-litre containers of water
for tall office buildings on la Paseo de la Reforma.
On la calle de Niza
shelves at el super K crowded with water jugs
beckon like pale, valuable gems,
while around the corner, hotel maids
leave two new bottles on the cheap plastic tray
in the tiled, fluorescent bathroom.

Courtyard fountains
lure babies to sleep, an easy transition
from amniotic swoosh.
Statues of myth, of revolution,
bathe daily in splashing spray
in centers of palmy glorietas.

In the patio of Hotel del Cortés
elderly waiters deliver tall limonadas,
one careful ice cube each.
Beer ordered con lima receives four cubes,
a quarter-cup of lime juice,
a salted-rimmed tumbler.

Mid-afternoon cloudburst causes commuters
leaving the Metro at Copilco to stop,
fold barely-read newspapers into inadequate hats,
then splash up stairs,
now a waterfall from the rain.

Boutique clerks on avenida Presidente Masarik
put squares of brown cardboard over polished granite steps.
Thick drops splat against rolled-down plastic walls
of sidewalk cafes in la Zona Rosa.

After the storm
rain remains puddled in broken sidewalks.
An old woman brooms water away from her flower stand,
the hem of her pea green skirt drooping and damp.
The beggar who squats between the María Isabel Sheraton
and Starbucks
returns to her post,
left hand cupped and outstretched.

(c)Melinda Green Harvey

One thought on “La agua de México

  1. As I approach the John
    Soon to be a squatter
    I remember those words of wisdom
    Don’t drink the water!

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