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MEXICO CITY

Postcards by Jenna Matecki
Artwork by Chakceel Rah

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01

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“How many continents did you learn in school?”
“North America, South America, Africa, Europe...”
“We learn that North America and South America
are the same continent.”

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02

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I rolled down my window
with nothing to declare
We sped past the hand-painted signs
the peeling yellow and pink facades
“Que estas haciendo aquí?”
“What are you doing here?”
I don’t know
I don’t know
I know absolutely nothing these days
I’m the bird that searched for an exit
while flying around trapped inside an airport
and found it
We walked around Narvarte
to the last shops that have been here forever
to the men standing at the taco carts
over the raised roots on the sidewalk
She told me what it was like being retired
she asked me if I had ever been here before --
I asked where I could buy some zucchini blossoms for dinner
… remember that one time when we were at Central de Abasto
picking out ingredients for your restaurant?
Remember when we sped around in your junk car?
I rested my hands on your shoulders, I
gave your girlfriend one of the first poems I ever wrote as a present
We slow danced together in the street while kids let out fireworks for Independence Day
You all called me family.
everything in my body aches --
the weight of a past life I once had
Is this the same city that we were in
back then? Did you ever think of
saying something
This is all
drawing circles around my mind while I pass by
women and children making dinner on the sidewalk at night
I once knew this place
I once had a life that I was building here
I once knew you -- now
I don’t know
I don’t know
Yo no sé
nada

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03

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Once upon a time
a midnight light beam visited Mexico City
The usual cacophony
of the tamales oaxaquenos vendors
and those people that drive around in trucks and buy old refrigerators
and the men playing ranchera music on speakers at the market
fell quiet
The punks moshpitting in clubs
all stopped too
to witness the glow

It appeared just over El Zocalo
(the largest town square you've ever seen)
just over the flagpole
(of the largest Mexican flag you've ever seen)
in a way similar to the light beams that come from alien spaceships
except it continued indefinitely into the starry heavens
The anthropologists and museum people theorized
that this perhaps happened once before at Parque de Los Arboledas
or that this may be what the mexica meant
when they said they saw a sign in the middle of a giant lake
instead of an eagle and a snake

Because it was so bright
it cut through the smog
through its curtain people could actually see the peak of the nearby volcano, Popocatepetl
against the dark, dark blue sky
and the only tears that came to their eyes
were from feeling

Because it was so beautiful
people all flocked to the streets
the food vendors and the artisans selling alebrijes all worked together
to create a massive feast
they flipped beans into the air to accentuate their enthusiasm
and painted children's faces --
some little girls could be seen with
Frida unibrows
The mariachi posted on every street corner
and under every balcony --
the danzon was so wonderful
that those who didn't know how to dance were compelled to join in anyways and ask
the old couples who owned the floor
to teach them how to move

Because it was powerful
all the internet and lights cut out
the TVs playing soccer matches and the
green man on the crosswalk lights stopped running and just stood there, looking confused and blinking --
The posh parents in Las Lomas
stopped correcting their children when they spoke in slang
and the quinceanera teens taking moody pictures at hipódromo
admired each other's poofy dresses and glitter eyeliner

The light had a magical effect
on all the plants and flowers --
they bloomed in human time
at a rate that was so fast
that everyone felt compelled to wear jamaica flowers in their hair or
bougainvillea blossoms on their lapels, even the Condesa dogs bit off the overflowing jacaranda branches and carried them
all the way across town
to a bonfire hosted at UNAM  

This ray was so unusual
the antiquarian bookstores in Roma hosted bedtime story readings led by drag queens --
the xochilmilco farmers gave out baskets of produce that would feed people for weeks
the luchadores took off their own masks and arm wrestled with the cops
(the feathered ballerinas from bellas artes stood by watching amused
whispering to each other that they would win)

It was so important
that all the construction workers donned their florescent vests and
helped a group of brave voladores
stay safe
as they climbed the flagpole
to get a better look into the
bright distance ahead of them --
When they got to the top everyone
in this massive city
clapped and ooo-ed and ah-ed
the voladores swore that from those heights
everyone looked happy
except the politicians
who debated if they should hoist a new flag that would say
"D.F." or "CDMX," "Ciudad de México," or simply
"es que..."

As the sun started to rise
and the ray slowly started to flicker away
everyone cheersed with mezcales
the whole city
in one form or another
made poetry out of
PDA
families fell asleep
and friends nestled together on couches
as the birds started to chirp and a
single Volkswagen beetle
puttered up Reforma

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04

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I could watch you make me coffee
for hours on repeat
your hair, eyes, skin, and cinnamon,
pour too into the rounded clay
my smiling café de olla
my earth in a cup

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05

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"I'm a scientist
I love being a scientist, I
love science
But when I look at good art
I get an overwhelming feeling that
this is the only thing that we should be doing
this
is the only thing that matters"

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06

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I read
I sat on the tiles
with my back against a wooden bench
in the courtyard
the mango and avocado trees played with the light
the squirrels grabbed their snacks
I read about the nature of wind
as a stray cat
slowly came over to where I was sitting
He jumped up onto the bench behind me
and lay with his head next to mine, against his outstretched arm
his two hind legs and tail
dangled off the bench
he slept there in the sun
while I turned my pages
his front paws were bigger than most cats that I see
he was a strong, streetwise kind of guy
his breath traveled lightly in and out,
his ribs expanded, contracted
white whiskers fluttered up and down
this someone who’s tough became sweet --
eyes shut above a tiny black nose --
he was close enough to my ear that I could hear his purring
deep within his scarred body
he filled the air between us with sleep --
Our naptime together in the warmth of a Oaxacan afternoon
our exhaled clouds
drifting around our heads

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07

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I walked into this arts/cultural space/cafe to
grab a tea and do some work
A woman with a clipboard comes up to me and says
“You’re here for the casting right?”
“Casting?”
“Yes. Excellent. Great. Here - fill out this form.”
“Excuse me?”
“Fill out this form, I need your measurements and your Instagram handle. You’re number 102.”
A minute later I’m standing in front of a room full of clothing racks, photographers, and fashion people holding number 102 in front of my chest
A new Argentine model friend I met offstage
gave me a thumbs up and flashed
The whitest teeth I’ve ever seen
“Please hold the number so I can see it”
“Like this?”
“Great. Act natural.”
“Okay…”
*The shutter clicked, and then clicked again*
“Act natural!”
“Sorry, I was just here for a tea.”
“Perfect. That’s natural.”

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08 

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I’m learning latin guitar from the most joyful man
he has a giant mustache
his name is Ricardo
he speaks with such spirit and animation
he’ll noodle around on his guitar strings in between asking about how you’ve been
he’ll pin keys on the piano,
check your calluses,
draw music notes on a chalkboard to accentuate the points he’s making
about how your finger should actually go on ‘43’ instead of ‘42’
If you had a long day
he’ll drum the rhythm on the back of your guitar with you so you get it right
BOOM bam boom boom bam BOOM BOOM
he’ll make you sing Cielito Lindo with him while he plays, he’ll
record it for you to listen to when you practice at home
his commitment to you learning what you’re supposed to
extends to the evening hours when he’ll look up guitar tutorials for you
somehow he’s able to find some random person on YouTube who is located in Scotland and has a free library of tutorials
for all your favorite songs
“Play slower and enjoy it”
he always says --
raising an eyebrow
It’s funny how
obvious he is
about why he’s the way he is
“Play slower and enjoy it”
no wonder why the neighborhood kids
all love him
when you walk down the halls of
Centro de Estudios Musicales
they linger in the doorways
and watch
while he sticks every note the way he should
fingers levitating,
eyes clear, a one man
symphony
Happiness, aching

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09

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What was Mexico
before Coca Cola?
before the cartels tore up the countryside
and 5 locks were needed to get into each door?
I see it in the way friends work here
your people are your people for life
they somehow reference someone else’s chickens when they say things like “well, of course”
“Por su pollo, por supuesto”
The soccer games at dead end streets
The stones where a chef with blue hair grinds maíz into
real tortillas, the foundation of the best meal you’ve ever had
The hand-stitched embroidery and the rug maker who crosses himself and kisses the sky while he weaves, it will all cost
so much less than what it’s worth
People get teary when talking about their grandparents
Students visiting from Guadalajara are so curious they’ll circle around you and ask questions
Toddlers will say
“I haven’t seen you in a while”
when you just met
The surreality of a city that continues on forever
tianguis - market tents, colors for miles
chiles, shoes, aisles filled with just
clocks
millions of grey blocks on mountainsides
where a man in feathers once carried a woman in white
You gasp when you see the tiles and the view at
Castillo de Chapultepec
you wince when you listen to the news
of Mayans losing another rainforest to a drug company in Campeche
What was Mexico before
Coca Cola?
I’ve only met Caballeros and Damas
I’ve only met
kindhearted people
Trying to define “Mexican”
their way, not yours
Answer me:
What was Mexico
Before Coca Cola?
you ‘patriots’ are the lies that you tell yourselves, that you believe,
you corrupted the last of us who live close to the earth --
you have
no idea who you are or the damage
you cause when you talk about walls, criminalize the
desperate, or pretend that guns are necessary
Mexico is a culture more than a border, if you
offend my friends, you offend yours
how could any of them feel safe
giving you their numbers?
How could you possibly not know that
there was an empire here
when walking around the anthropology museum
How could you not feel the agony in
the storied halls of this city
when you see an old man’s feet on fire?
How can you not feel the apathy
of the faceless
as a small mother reaches for
another can of acid
and her 8-year-old child
walks from bar to bar
hawking keychains?

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10

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Thank you for happening to me
Thank you, Chak
for asking me to repeat myself
when we stood next to each other in the courtyard when the lights went out at SOMA and people hurried by
lighting candles around us
Thank you for calling me a deer like you --
Thank you for the gift of your infinite stories and intimate thoughts
And the hours and hours that we’ve spent together
Your daughter is lucky that she has you for advice
Thank you, you proved
You only need one, true,
(slightly loco) friend
in a city
to feel at home

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11

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Longing
Youth
Best friends
Good rebellion
Becoming yourself
Attraction
Work
True love
Family
Slapstick
Sparks
The unknown

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12

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I’m so terribly sorry
but I’m cheating on you with this mole

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13

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Let’s remember that
there's a nearing time
when death will caress our necks
when La Catrina will welcome us home
There’s a time
not too distant
when we’ll all actually know
what happened at Teotihuacan
Remember that, with me.

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14

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Would you rather be a fish in a tank that's safe forever
or in the wide ocean, an infinite field, or sky
freedom means an ounce of danger
In a world of color
bright futures live just below the obvious
horizon lines
Open those doors
walk down those streets
clutch your heart, dear one
Keep going

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15

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The more time I spend here
the more I have nothing to say
that compass heading, somewhere deep --
The arrow went haywire before
when I thought that it mattered what others said around me,
about me
where their own directions go
they insisted that their way is right
well it is - for them
The magnetic poles are within
your feet
hands line their own meridians 
leaves move with 
their own small air currents
I breathe mine in and out --
new air
with each moon
I have nothing to say
these days
I’m too busy
breathing 
I’m deconstructing
this dream
leaf by leaf
into what’s real for me --
true north right now is east
and winds from the west
kiss the freckles on my shoulders

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16

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It felt like October
inside that cantina
the smell of burnt rosemary
candle shadows against a pale green wall with
the Virgin Mary painted on it
The vats of clear mezcal, the taste of smoke and cucumber
the salted sunflower seeds snapped against my fingers
Our conversation bubbled up mineral --
Fresh air thoughts flowing in around us
I could have stopped time and left
red lipstick stains on each doorframe and forehead in there
for how much I enjoyed living in those moments with you

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17 

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In the empty space between memories and dreams 
Where hours can't exist, before they
tick too quickly forwards or backwards 
My hand and your cheek,
At the kitchen counter, 
On the crosswalk before we notice that the either
is on the other side,  
When you open your mouth but haven't said anything yet,
The shadows in your eyelids and the water
that wells up around them, the 
record static and the first note, the
rhythm of your pulse and your 
signature walk 
In those places 
just before those true words you say without thinking 
In the strands of our greying hair,
the air among the unexpected hiccups and the
pieces of us that we’ll learn about, the
feelings we feel in good company
The big decisions to move or the 
nuanced ones to stay
In the middle of our favorite stories, entering 
the quiet after we go to sleep and the
window shade and the golden morning light
-- our full
beginnings, endings, and presents together, all
in the empty space between memories and dreams

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18

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No one ever tells you that at a certain point
If you do it right
You’ll be completely overwhelmed
By all the good people in your life

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19

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Mexico, you are the dark horse I will bet on --
the glowing creature that we imagined when we were sick
You spoke softly but clearly:
El ‘no’ ya lo tienes
- you already have the ‘no’
All that’s left is for
the hunter to let her arrow go
The water of this dried up lake
flows through each of us now
the maps illuminate
when you hold this lotería game of chance
up to a light --
let physics be physics, and
darken the sky for stars, your
alebrije wouldn't guide you if you weren't
already mythic

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Que chido, chica.

Hola. Thanks for reading the Mexico City chapter. Where do you want to go next? Buenos Aires? Barcelona? Sign up for a postcard? Oh… oh wait I know you’ve been curious about Tokyo…