Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, a poem by Guadalupe Garcia McCall


This poem is metaphorically from the cutting room floor, meaning that it was cut from the original manuscript for my novel-in-verse, Under the Mesquite.  My editor at Lee & Low Books, Emily Hazel, and I both agreed that given the nature of the manuscript, our intended audience, and the gentle treatment of the cancer in the rest of the narrative, this poem was too complex and a bit too graphic to be included in the final draft.  To this day “POPOCATEPETL AND IZTACCIHUATL” remains one of my most beloved poems.  I share it with you as an ofrenda, a humble offering, in gratitude for the wonderful reception, support, and warmth bestowed upon me during my author visit to the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine on October 25, 2016.  I hope you enjoy it.
All my best,
Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Eagle Pass, Texas – Spring 1983

For months, Mami has lain
In her bed in a medicated
State, moaning.  And for months,
The little ones, Angie and Roxy,
have crawled into my bed
And whimpered like puppies
As they listen to her cry out,
Scream, and hallucinate.

Today, I did the unthinkable.
I told Papi it is time to call 911.
I told him it is better for Mami
To die in a hospital than have
My little brother and sisters
Remember her like this for
The rest of their lives.

He looked at me through
The slits of narrowed eyes,
Called me Malinche through
Clenched teeth, and said
He will not.

But this evening, he was forced
To carry her out to his truck
In the cradle of his strong arms
Like Popocatepetl must have
Carried the body of Iztaccihuatl
Out of Tenochtitlan.

She hemorrhaged all over his
White shirt, dyed it crimson,
Soaked it the color of lost love.

Some reference notes on the allusions in the poem:

Malinche – In legend, the Aztec Princess who betrayed her people and handed over the Aztec kingdom to the Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortez
Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl – In legend, the Aztec warrior Popocatepetl and the Princess Iztaccihuatl were in love. Popocatepetl went to war and soon a rumor came to Iztaccihuatl that Popocatepetl had died. When she heard this, Iztaccihuatl died of sadness. Upon his return, Popocatepetl took the body of his beloved Iztaccihuatl to the woods. He laid her body on a hill and mourned at her side until he too died of sadness. Eventually, the gods turned them both into volcanoes.
Tenochtitlan – was the capital of the Aztec civilization, what is now the capital of Mexico.

Guadalupe Garcia McCall
is the author of three books.  Her first book was
Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low Books), a novel in verse. It the prestigious Pura Belpre Author Award, was a William C. Morris Finalist, received the Lee Bennett Hopkins/International Literacy Promising Poet Award, among many other accolades.  Ms. Garcia McCall was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico.  She immigrated with her family to the United States when she was six years old and grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas (the setting of her novels and most of her poems).  She is currently a high school English teacher in San Antonio.

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