Two Poems by Melisa Cahnmann-Taylor

Eleven ways An American Family Looks at Mexico City, 2017

How difficult to choose at the Coyoacán market: passion fruit, guanabana,

mango, papaya; little packets of blue corn huaraches and sopes, the buttery

cookies, corn ice cream, and the clown at the zócalo, the way he pecked two well-

rehearsed lips at the pretty woman and my son who dropped two pesos into his


I listen to directions and I get the first part, then the second part and forget the

first part.

Two days of fever, sharp abdominal pains, hours of sleep. Did you eat

in the street? Did you drink the water?

My seven year old daughter wanted a "Frida" shirt, Kahlo's famous eyebrows, her

black hair wrapped in flowers. We bought one, a cartoon image of that face

blowing a bright pink bubble. There was no mouth. Then another stall and

another Frida shirt, the artist's whole body pierced with nails, a Greek column

instead of her spine, shattering.

I saw the rain coming in a thick, grey cloud. Smelled it before the sky broke on

the house. That's a metaphor. But to say it fell is also a metaphor because I was

the one who fell on the uneven sidewalk but nothing broke, only bruised in the

angry color of a storm.

Pidgeons, the kids toss them crackers. They surge around our table. We yell

at the kids--Don't feed the pigeons. We shoo them away. They are rats with wings.

They stink. I remember the joy of feeding pigeons.

Don't brush your teeth with the water. In the shower, the pool, the rain, keep

your mouth closed.

A child with hydrocephalus sitting in a grocery cart. His head or hers, bald,

cartoonishly large. I look away. My ten-year-old son says, "He must be very, very


A man balances a stick on his shoulders; two women twist balls on a rope. They

practice fire dancing for Cancún audiences, burn marks on his elbow, cheek.

¿De dónde son? The clown calls from in front of the Teatro. "Georgia," my

husband responds. ¡Los Estados Unidos! He jumps in front of us, pantomimes a

wall. Hundreds of Mexicans seated on the stone steps, laughing.

Aguaaaaaa, Aguaaaaa. Toots and whistles. Megaphone voices and circus music

off pick up truck roofs, honking house to house on residential streets. Garafones

of purified water, gas tank refills, fried plantains, freshly carved bedframes--

anything can be brought to your door at any time if you learn to recognize the


Villanelle, Guanajuato Mexico

¿Qué opina usted de su presidente, Trump?

The school boy asks, as does the waiter, the driver.

Do you think the U.S. will enter into battle?

The plaza clown asks where we're from

and with his hands creates a divider.

This is what he thinks of our president Trump's

muro. China, Berlin, Jerusalem,

we wail in the present, ask why or

believe walls protect the U.S. from battle,

but history calls for graffiti, plutonium

spray paint, anything to spider

opinions of our president. Trump

bans immigrants, allows firearms

in gun-free zones. Fires the FBI director.

Do I think the U.S. will have another war?

We build, knock down, then build again.

History repeats itself, the muralists know.

¿Qué opina usted de su presidente, Trump?

I pray. Hope we avoid the march to war drums.

MELISA "Misha" CAHNMANN-TAYLOR is Professor of TESOL & World Language Education at the University of Georgia. Her new book of poetry, Imperfect Tense (Whitepoint Press, 2016) showcases mergers between ethnography and creative writing, reflecting a year of fieldwork in Oaxaca, Mexico. Awarded the Resplandor Scholar/Artist in Residence in Mexico; NEA Big Read Grants, Fulbright (Oaxaca, Mexico), and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prizes, she is the co-author of three education books, Teachers Act Up: Creating Multicultural Learning Communities Through Theatre (2010) and Arts-Based Research in Education (2008; second edition, in press). Her poems and essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, American Poetry Review, Women’s Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Barrow Street, Puerto Del Sol, Mom Egg, and many other literary homes. She judges the annual Anthropology & Humanism poetry contest and is the editor of the ethnographic poetry section. Follow her blog at

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