As Us

A Space for Writers of the World

Michelle Otero – Poetry

Cosas de Mujeres.

My friend buys a pack of Faros from a boy
who should be in bed so late on a school night.
He lights her up and walks back through the bar,
his wooden box of chocolates, smokes, and chicle
strapped around his neck by a wide strip of leather.
We sit on the patio, alone except for a voice
singing of revolution from a speaker above the kitchen window.

In the kitchen a woman’s hands carve
wells into the tops of torta rolls
spreading the hollows with black beans.
Food for poets and painters and bohemians in the bar.
Food for the people.

The voice that sings of revolution
belongs to the man who kissed
my friend on this patio
the other night while
his girlfriend sat inside the bar
next to his guitar case.

“I didn’t know
he had a girlfriend.”

The voice that sings of revolution
belongs to my favorite dance partner,
the best cumbero in Oaxaca.
Fridays we drink coffee together under a spiny
tree at the mercado orgánico.
Thursday nights he sings Mercedes Sosa, Victor
Jara, Daniel Viglietti, recites Neruda,
Sabines, Bukowski.

“He’s not attractive, but
he kind of grows on you,
and then he becomes
more attractive
the more you talk to him.”

She drinks Pacífico.
I drink mescal.

She is sundresses and a kerchief over hair that is brown curls today, buzz cut dyed red tomorrow. She is paint-stained jeans, a pint with the guys, carry a ladder under her arm through cobblestone streets, up the steps to Guelaguetza Stadium because if only the highest point in the city were a tad higher, she could take the picture of Oaxaca that lives only in her head.

She is rounded back hunched over canvas, heavy lids over gray eyes. She was always the smallest in her class, and so she likes southern Mexico where the mirrors and doorways are set for her size.

Tonight she is a woman in shadows.

“I don’t want him to know I am here.”

Last night, she found him outside her hotel,
where men in white guayaberas seal
the wooden doors at dusk
and open them only to key
holders and their guests.
His girlfriend kicked him
out of their apartment. Safe
beneath the stone archways of my
friend’s hotel courtyard, where four
hundred years ago Dominican nuns
walked to mass, he asked, “Can we
talk in your room?”

They sat on her bed.
He hugged her, thanked her
for being there
for him. She asked
what happened.

He answered by kissing
her hard. It surprised her—
the kiss. What about your girlfriend?
He said they broke up. She’s so jealous, insecure.
They kissed some more. Then he
was on top of her.

“I remember my elbow was bent.
My forearm was pinned
between our chests.
I don’t know
what happened. I
don’t think
it was rape.
I didn’t
say no.
Maybe I did.
I did.”

The song ends. He finds us.
What’s up? he asks.
Aqui, no mas, I answer.

cosas de mujeres, tu sabes.

*      *      *

Michelle Otero head shotA writer, actor, and teacher, Michelle Otero is the author of Malinche’s Daughter, an essay collection based on her work with women survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as a Fulbright Fellow in Oaxaca, Mexico. Her work has appeared in New Mexico Magazine, Brevity, Puerto del Sol, and other literary journals. She is member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop.
A tenth-generation New Mexican, she is Creative Director of Valle Encantado, an organization promoting sustainable development initiatives in Albuquerque’s Atrisco neighborhood.
She blogs at

One comment on “Michelle Otero – Poetry

  1. Roberta Avila
    June 15, 2014

    Will you please contact me at or call 228-229-8552

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