Chava, mi Amigo
Chava my friend, I met you in the fields of California, land of spanish mission. And so were you mi amigo. You crossed the Sonoran desert with 3 others. Just like Neil Armstrong. One in that harsh hell, fell, to the bite of a viper born of an egg, destined to strike at your cousin who died. By a rock under half moonlight. First he went blind, then raving mad, spittle and eyes flashing and spewing in every direction, his arms and wild hair flailing, crying, Mama, Mami, Mamma! Is what you told me.
Pinche culebra, F...king snake, you said, it was cursed for the day it was born, killing Pablito, only 15 years old.
Your wit, your humor, could not be extinguished even by your railroad boxcar incident with you gasping for air. Sandwiched together with squeezed tight pack of fellow human sardines. For your love of familia in ’ol mejico, one and a half thousand miles from home.
Evading the aliens who sought out your life, persecuted by copter and loud barking dogs. The times they had caught you, you could count past the fingers on your hand, giving you bread and cheese with a free ride back to the border, “la frontera.”
You headed for la jaola de oro, (the cage of gold), where gold was reputed to be swept off the street, (“las monedas de oro se recojen del piso,” you and myriads like you, to me would proclaim.
In poorness you came to the human built caves of twisted wood and corrugated tin. Sanctioned a slave for el norte’s bread. You sacrificed love of your passion, lonely for them, women you’d left, including your wife. Lived like a hermit worked your hands raw, in the fields by day, a man without a country, all work and no play.
Around a midday fire, rustic with beans, in old crooked pot. You gestured to me with a sweep of your arm and outstretched fingers offered the ash stained tortilla with generosity. “Andale, comete otra.” We ate together. Lazy smoke rising slow upward in winter’s air, with adjacent fields of skeletal limbed vineyard and ghost leafless trees in the tule fog. A brief respite from labor, muttered tones reminiscent of the land of maguey, nopal and arroyo you so missed.
Your beautiful silver toothed smile trademark of yours I will never forget. Smacking your lips as you spoke of that land. Sharing your stories of family and friends, riding the burros in canyons of black lava rock. Never believing you’d come now so far, as sitting with me, a pocho, (americanized mexican) so kind.
Your last day in this foreign land once yours I will never forget. A long trail left by your tractor tires staining the dirt of a high banked levee running for a mile. Straight except for the last 400 feet, gradually swooning, curved as it led. The trail disappears at the brink of the razor edge of crumbled earth, sending you and tractor tumbling to your death.
What were you thinking as your last moments neared? Wondering about your sweet ones as you stared at the pale blue sky above your head? Were you singing one of the melodies I’d so often heard, the voice of the tunes like Antonio Aguilar’s?
The horror of that maldito, (damned) tractor crushing your nobel crown in an empty canal. Your eyes staring blankly at me. The cursed, shameless earth, sucking your red black coagulated blood around your head. Your ribs imploded by 2 tons of steel, cruelly destroying a good friend I’d made. You traveled so far to die so far away.
Here is to the knowledge of knowing you Chava, Chavita my friend
Chava de los Chavas, Compadre.