By Margaret Van Every



José the rug vendor by the side of the road

will tell you he comes from Oaxaca

where his family raises the sheep,

dyes the wool, and weaves the rugs.


Pick your favorite, says he, gesturing

at myriad rugs of clashing hues,

stacked and hanging, clamoring for

adoption. Take them home and

try them out; exchange them if you will.


He studies you intently, sidles close

and murmurs guapa in your ear,

then gauges whether flattery has enhanced

his rug’s appeal. If not, he offers

a discount specially for you,

10 percent off in exchange for... a beso.


You wonder if your Spanish

or your hearing is amiss.

You ponder if he’ll offer next

the whole-rug discount, but instead

you present your cheek and then

to your surprise he finds your lips.


And now you exit this bizarre stage,

giddy, with a rolled-up rug beneath your wing

as over and again you replay the scene,

savoring a phantom impression on the mouth

that lingers like Oaxaca heat.

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