Curandera

They think she lives alone
on the edge of town in a two-room house
where she moved when her husband died
at thirty-five of a gunshot wound
in the bed of another woman. The curandera
and house have aged together to the rhythm
of the desert.

She wakes early, lights candles before
her sacred statues, brews tea of yerbabuena.
She moves down her porch steps, rubs
cool morning sand into her hands, into her arms.
Like a large black bird, she feeds on
the desert, gathering herbs for her basket.

Her days are slow, days of grinding
dried snake into powder, of crushing
wild bees to mix with white wine.
And the townspeople come, hoping
to be touched by her ointments,
her hands, her prayers, her eyes.
She listens to their stories, and she listens
to the desert, always, to the desert.

By sunset she is tired. The wind
strokes the strands of long gray hair,
the smell of drying plants drifts
into her blood, the sun seeps
into her bones. She dozes
on her back porch. Rocking, rocking.

Pat Mora, "Curandera" from Chants. Copyright © 1985 Arte Público Press - University of Houston.  Reprinted by permission of Arte Público Press.
Source: Chants (Arte Público Press, 1985)
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