Magdalena and Daniel Herreshoff are new to Cuenca. They stayed at 2 of our rentals while they looked around for a more long-term place. Madeleen is a gifted writer and we are honored she gave us permission to share some of her Cuenca impressions on the blog.
Here is one of Madeleen's poems we'd like to share with you. We think it really gives a flavor of a little slice of life here. We'll be sharing more about Magdalena and more of her writings in the future.
From early dawn until noon, blue, white and black
Garbage bags accumulate on the sidewalk
Sick with the flu and unable to leave my apartment
I watch the embarrassing mass from the fifth floor.
Across the street two indigenous women sit
on the edge of a window sill away from the bright sun
surrounded by shopping bags, 4 white buckets with lids,
bundled scarves shoved behind a lamp post.
One of the women wears a tall white Panama hat
like a floating pie in the sky, a dark magenta sweater
tucked into a red velour skirt, thick with pleats.
The other is dressed in a turquoise sweater,
cobalt blue skirt, and a dark green bundle
crossed over her back, most likely
an infant, unaware of garbage bags.
Slowly they rise from the window sill
Cross the street with buckets in hand
Bend over the blue, white and black bags
Unknotting each one to search with bare hands for
banana peels, egg shells, papaya leftovers, fish bones,
Wilted vegetables, smashed fruit or coffee grinds.
Sweating in the heat of the day, wiping
Each scrap is pushed deep into the white bucket
Unknotting and knotting, their skirts scallop
In yellow, green and red embroidery,
golden sequins best suited for dance.
The infant slides from hips to buttocks
towards hidden treasures; a subtle rhythm
of harvesting waste inside pores.
I cannot take my eyes of them, spellbound
And ashamed of the overflowing garbage.
Half way through, the women carry their full buckets
Back to the shadow side of the street
On the edge of the window sill they rest
no words, no sudden gestures, no hurry
they wait for their backs to relax, muscles tight
from lifting garbage bags of rotting food
for pigs, perhaps a single cow, and stray chickens.
An old man arrives and waits on the sill's edge
for the women to tuck vivid skirts under broad hips
and sort their gleanings on the cool pavement.
I had not noticed the bags with trinkets until now;
with my binoculars I make out each item:
a pair of “gold” glasses, a little book, a ceramic picture
A mechanical toy, papers and folders.
Handed from woman to man to woman
each is explored , glasses are tried, books turned upside down
and separated into shopping bags.
Stepping away from the window I almost did not see
the two small women, infant, and old man,
full with buckets and bags tied high on their backs
disappear into the traffic of snarling taxis and cars.
As if by clockwork, the garbage truck pulls up,
Young men toss recyclables and trash up into the air,
hours of women's diligence erased in minutes.
Perhaps I will buy a bucket, save my scraps
for the Recicladores of Avenida Molina Mora.