L_caputoby Lorraine Caputo25 Jul 2014

Riobamba, in the midst of the Andes

of warm days & cold nights

of snow-capped volcanoes

The streets are crowded

narrow passageways amongst

vendors with their wares

Indigenous women from many villages

in low-crowned bowlers or pillbox hats

bargain & barter & sell

Their skirts of velvet are wrapped off

with woven belts

Layers upon layers of fabric

drape over their shoulders

to ward off the chill

Many sling babies to their backs

Behind the market building

in the calle

Women sit on blankets

mounds of bright produce

potatoes & turnips & peppers

oranges & berries & pineapples

Men wend, bags of peeled garlic

hanging from hand racks

On fiber ropes hairy pigs

are led through this human cacophony

A barefoot traditional woman

pulls a plump grey rabbit by its ears

out of a gunny sack

The white woman & daughter

inspect it with a critical eye

No, too much

In wooden cages stacked atop

one another guinea pigs

nibble their lower lip

in anticipation of dinner

& amidst all the smells & rainbows

the plastic & pottery

are plastic buckets & jugs

Buses fume by in clouds

of greasy diesel smoke

Suddenly a call goes up

& a group of men run

after a soon-to-be-caught thief

Along the streets linking market square

used“American” clothing

pile high on drop cloths

A mil la pieza the women call

One thousand sucres a piece

A couple picks through the mounds

in hushed Quichua clicks

They leave without a purchase

In the plaza just south

of Convento de la Concepción

Woolen sweaters & blankets

gloves bags & hats

They hang in make-shift stalls

or spread upon worn-stone pavement

A gang of foreign tourists browse

through the wares of the Otavalan trader

Amidst hard bargaining

the price for a poncho

of soft alpaca drops

The extranjero again

inspects it with a critical eye

before walking off

No, too much

Up in the central park

a quintet of young men play

traditional music

Rondador & flutes guitars

& instead of the hide drum

an electric bass

People indigenous & foreigners

gather around under

the noon sun

published in:

Andina Aquarelles (O’Fallon, Illinois: Snark Publishing, 2003)