by Pat Mora
They think she lives alone
on the edge of town in a two-room house
where she moved after her husband died
at thirty-five of a gunshot wound
in the bed of another woman. The curandera
and the 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 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.
At night she cooks chopped cactus
and brews more tea. She brushes a layer
of sand from her bed, sand which covers
the table, stove, floor. She blows
the statues clean, the candles out.
Before sleeping, she listens to the message
of the owl and the coyote. She closes her eyes
and breathes with the mice and snakes
* a curandera is a healer