Plaza Hospicio Cabañas (Guadalajara)

perched in a cricket cage
the canary waits to read
your life

you stand, sunbound
eating mamey, guanaba
favas con chile, pan dulce
drinking agua pura y piña

drop a few pesos in the guira
the marimba comes to life
two men like a wind-up toy
or well-trained spider monkeys
play Guadalajara, two mallets
in each hand, fingers spread
to catch mahagony notes
as they fly by

some buzz, some clunk
loose on the stand, worn
as the steps to the iglesia
shading the mercado

gaps between the brown
bars reflected in spaces
where teeth once shone

Arkansas Razorbacks
blares the shirt of the one
playing melody, New York
graces the other one’s hat

the guira hungry but no longer
fed, the song winds down

a moment of smile
wrinkles shadowed faces
before the return of cloud cover
as your hands come together
but your pockets stay closed

but give a peso, and
the canary will select
five slips of paper
to tell you who you are
where you will be
who you will marry
when you will die

brought out of her bamboo hut
put on its roof, feathers pale
on her head like stalks
of harvested corn, she chooses
her vision peck by peck, forgets
she knows how to fly


James K. Zimmerman is an award-winning poet and frequent Pushcart Prize nominee. His work appears in Pleiades, Chautauqua, American Life in Poetry, Reed, Miramar, and Nimrod, and among others. He is author of Little Miracles (Passager, 2015) and Family Cookout (Comstock, 2016), and winner of the Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Prize.