Dreaming Pancho Villa By Carl Marcum The silence that was neither Spanish nor English was my prayer. —Luis Alberto Urrea 1. Last night I dreamt I was Pancho Villa— ragged, bandoliered, reckless. I dreamt my poetry at the end of a pistol, felt it kick nearly out of my hand. But this morning I awoke again white and assimilated into these cobwebs of my half-self. When did I forget my mother? Sometimes Spanish syllables creak like wobbly shopping cart wheels, I have to lean against accent, fill myself with verbs: necesitar, hablar, poder. 2. Half, medio, milkweed, Carlos Gringo, Carlos Murphy. Part mexicano, part Kentucky hillbilly, I’ve angloed my way through this life— hablando español de conveniencia, nunca pensando en la bendición. 3. I dreamed again last night I was Pancho Villa. Only this time I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. I could understand what the men were asking me, but to blurt orders in English would have stretched my neck. So I kept quiet, austere. I kept a rifle in my hand. I’ve taken it as a sign. When I was fourteen, I lost my brand-new Timex in the waist-high surf of Pismo Beach. I couldn’t feel it missing from my wrist until I was in my uncle’s Volvo, my shorts still soaking, my lips caked white. The sand in my hair, the sand in my shoes— the very real estate of Madera, where during the revolution, no train or telegraph passed for months. The business lumbering on, turning trees to the fabric of living. After the war, they sent query to Juárez, they needed the hour, the day, the month, the year they hadn’t noticed. 4. I’m awake early, half-dreams of last night’s rain & a dirty porch pull me from the sheets. En la madrugada, a broom is a necessary instrument. The swish of straw against concrete, a whisper, a prayer. Shoulders cantilever, wrists rigid, hands in pliable tension—in this motion there is memory. My great-grandmother swept her porch, the way she did every morning. From the burnished Sonoran dawn, a stranger approached. She watched him, always sweeping. The man was young, in his early thirties maybe, beaten, ragged. His face crusted with blood, filthy. The man appealed to her, “Señora, por favor, ayúdeme,” he said. She stopped sweeping & looked at him. “Me siguen los federales,” he said. She looked on him with pity & brought him into her home. She must have thought of her daughters, she must have thought of consequence. She put the man in a bed, went back outside to sweep. The federales arrived shortly after, five on horseback armed & angry. “Señora,” they asked, “have you seen a stranger this morning?” She stopped sweeping, told them she had not. They asked if anyone was in the house. “No one,” she told them, “only my sick uncle.” They left without incident or investigation. Night fell. She cleaned the man’s wounds, gave him clothes, listened to his stories of revolution. She told him, “Whether the revolution or the government, I lose chickens all the same.” She handed him a plate of arroz con pollo. He rested for two days. She gave him the few centavos she had & he left amidst the desert night. Years later, the man returned to her house—with a gift that no one can remember—to thank her for his life. 5. This time it’s turning tequila sueño, gold spinner gone retrograde illusion. La Sirena—verde-verdad, glinting back-black and skin— across the metallic blue chulo wagon. Mariachi gone mad in the back seat. This is cruising at watch-me- miles-an-hour. “Ese, why don’t you come down to chrome avenue, where it’s all manos y moda? We’ll sit straight-slick, three-reefer- tone-deaf- brass-stick high. Me and you, pendejo. We’ll pick up Hi-Tone, all fingers and hair, that little guitarrista. No te mortifiques, Ride shotgun with me. Pégame un grito.” Chale. I’ve got work to do, homes. 6. 7. I’m dreamsick now. Staying asleep past noon. Desvelado. Headache-fog when I’m awake, even keeping down milk is hard. Images, sounds, curdle thick in my ears, my eyes. Levántate. ¿Qué horas son? I dream Villa’s first murder. The other man on horseback, his jefe’s son. An argument at the crossroads. A girl, Pancho’s sister. Something forced—a point, a pistol. A sharp report, blue-black smoke. Fear, alarm—the smell of guilt, like bad masa, taints tastes, turns on Pancho. Running now, like before but worse. Three days into las montañas. Marcado por vida. 8. In a dream of brown skin, I’m lost in black, black hair, dark nipples, a face I’ve never known. A kiss so difficult I moan. My face wet with her—princess, mujer—irrecoverable. Only impression across sleep-soaked lips, only an ache and a dark, dark scent. 9. 10. Barbed wire fence runs down the axis of a heart. River rides in canyon dreams—a revolution in water. I am a kiss, confessed by tongues that will not pronounce me.