A Dancer Tells Me About the Cuarenta y Tres 
(Para Christian Alfonso Rodriguez Telumbre) by Lupe Méndez

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


                                                                                   Y en los suspiros decia el que la seca la llena
                                                                                   — Las Amarillas, Arturo Villela Hernández

It is a hot night when I take the stage,

A la tirana na na, A la tirana na no.

I know these steps, una lucha para mi,
a flutter in the lights, a flock of birds in
my head, a rhythm I can not step away
from. My home, my Guerrero, suffers
a loss, an absence, cuarenta y tres are

missed. When I look up at the sky —
could not see los pajaros cadernales,
I race to put on my dance shoes, I race
to hug my children, I race to count
the heads in my own classroom, I race
to say the names of forty three sons, gone
somewhere, engrave them on my dance
shoe tacones.  I want a sanamiento, dress
up in a huipil, a yellow skirt, a field of yellow
flowers in my hair. I heard el gavilan say
“A mi hijo, le gusta bailar ballet folkorico,”
it echoes desde la costa de mi Acapulco,
across the mountains in Ayotzinapa,
up this border.  I let the pañuelo flicker
around the air, the bird that flows,
buscando respuesta, un nido, un respiro.

A la tirana na na, A la tirana na no.

He came to find his son, to ask for help,
to dance a cumbia with me, to watch us,
came to watch me dance Las Amarillas,
and every step was a pounding fight with
shadows, the longest I have ever danced.
I can’t watch the rostros in the crowd,
feel the tears well up on my face, I keep
the beat, close my eyes every few breaths,
look around, think I see el pico pico,
a young normalista, bring his own paliacate
and share a dance with me. It is an ofrenda,
una llamada, an echo, a marcha, a fogata,
a fight, a linterna, a flare, a beckoning, a rezo,
a pause, un movimento led with a simple
handkerchief.  I made this gavilan, Clemente,
cry that night, hypnotize him with a bandada
that glows, makes his heart swell, remind him
of a brilliant picture, a tarima and his son, caught
up in a dance, watch his lips as he mentions
his son, that all our sons will dance once more.  


Photo of Lupe Méndez

Photo of Lupe Méndez

Originally from Galveston,Texas, Lupe Méndez works with Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, the Word Around Poetry Tour and the Brazilian Arts Foundation to promote poetry events, advocate for literacy/literature and organize creative writing workshops that are open to the public. He is an internationally published poet, a CantoMundo Fellow and MFA in Creative Writing student with the University of Texas at El Paso.