Sing Zapatista

Martín Espada
Poet, Essayist, Editor & Translator


Sing Zapatista


            March 6, 2001

            Tepoztlán, State of Morelos, México


Sing the word Tepoztlán, Place of Copper,

pueblo of cobblestone and purple blossoms

amid the cliffs, serpent god ablaze with plumage

peering from the shaven rock.


Sing the word Zapata, bandoliers crossing his chest

like railroad tracks about to explode, rebellion's black iris

in 1910, in his eye the peasants of Morelos husking rifles

stalk by stalk from the cornfields.   


Sing the word Zapatista, masked rebels riding now

in a caravan without rifles, tracking the long rosary of blood

beaded and stippled across the earth by other rebels the color of earth,

bus panting uphill saddled with ghosts dangling legs from the roof.


Sing the words Félix Serdán, age eleven when he straddled the horse 

to ride with Zapata, witness to a century's harvest of campesino skulls

abundant as melons, twined in white mustache and blanket

beside the comandantes on the platform.


Sing the word comandante, twenty-three of the faceless

masked in black so their brown skin could grow eyes and mouths,

smuggling Mayan tongues to the microphone in the plaza

where the church drowses in dreams of Latin by rote.


Sing the word durito, hard little one, scarab on a banner

draped across the face of the church where bells bang

to welcome the rebels, as the scarab-people cluster below

shouting their vow never to be crushed by the shoe.


Sing the word zapateado, tap and stamp of women dancing in the plaza

to the hummingbird rhythms of Veracruz, guitarist in fedora

watching his fingers skitter like scarabs across the wood,

shawled dancer lost in the percussion of her feet. 


Sing the word Marcos, el Subcomandante, and listen

when he says above the crowd chanting his name:


Marcos does not exist. I am a window. I am a mirror.

I am you. You are me. 


from Alabanza: New & Selected Poems


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