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Virgin of the Barricades

––Oaxaca, Mexico


Oh, 21st century Virgin of the Barricades, wearing black silk dress

and burning rubber tires,

I glimpsed you eyes behind black goggles glowing on a video screen

on an expensive New York night.

Now, I wander the rough streets of Oaxaca hoping to see you again.

Have the ants sequestered you beneath the broken cobblestones and battered

feet of shaken dreamers?

Perhaps, you are nursing the wounds of murdered teachers

or singing to their crying children while mending your gas mask?

Perhaps, you are busy praying for the bruised innocents lying

in dark prisons or have fled to Rome with other virgins

to end your celibacy?

Oh Madre, far from the patrolling police, the Oaxaquenas are waking

dreaming of you, their eyes contemplating β€˜la ruta de evacuacion’,

while secretly sniffing the silent air waves for the scent of burning

tires, and wondering if the Native gods have gotten lost betting on soccer.

Dear Virgin, protector of big-hearted Mexican strikers, your armoured

figure which hovers like the stars above Oaxaca has inspired thousands

and now the world watches too.

As the church bells clamour, I will not forget you, even though I finally saw you

in a chic store emblazoned on a green shirt that I did not think

anyone should have to pay for.



[Originally published in NHS 2008, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs08/Vivian_Demuth.htm.]