Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IN A ZAGUAN, by KATE MULLER CHAPMAN



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IN A ZAGUAN, by            
First Line: Here sit I in the zaguan, in the sunshine, fiercely idle, fiercely happy.
Last Line: Little crusita.
Subject(s): Nonsense


Here sit I in the zaguan, in the sunshine, fiercely idle, fiercely happy,
Letting the winter sun shine on my body, warming my bones, making my blood warm,
warming my soul!

For years, many years, all the years of my early manhood,
I dreamed of the time when I'd sit like this in the zaguan
Hour upon hour, quiet, the dog at my foot quiet too,
Both of us moving along, little by little, to follow the sun,
Keeping pace with his rays till they slip from the last rincon of the house-
wall.

But always in those days, breaking the dream, came the voice of Crusita
Bidding me rise, bidding me work!
Por Dios!
Why is a woman's voice soft and sweet if it only calls one to labor?
And must a man toil forever until he is old, till the joy has gone out of an
hour of idleness?
Till even God's best gift, the Sun, cannot warm him as now it is warming me?

Bien, now I am able to rest me, to sit here as long as I wish to do, smoking
my punche.
Crusita is gone these many weeks -- or months, que sas? --
The days go so swiftly, so quietly, now that I live as an old man,
I can scarcely tell how long it has been since Crusita died, without counting
over the Sundays!
She said at the last she'd be glad of a rest in the grave for her poor tired
body,
With perhaps a quiet hour, now and then, for her soul, with Maria
Santissima.

When the little Crusita said, "She is dead," I knelt there still at the bedside,
Shaken, confused and dumb, my thoughts, like leaves in a dust-whorl,
Going back to the day when Crusita walked, white-muslined, white-veiled, from
the church in the bridal procession,
"Until Death do us part" entering the house of my fathers.
Now, with the little Crusita's words, had come the parting.
The years of the past receded: the present became as one with the past, then
rolled in its turn from my vision,
Until of a sudden I saw other years going on before me,
Long, slow, work-burdened years unfolding before me,
Dreary, work-sodden, comfortless years, with never again the help of my strong-
armed Crusita!
She had been always so willing, so eager, to take up my hoe or my shovel
Such times as I felt I ought to go to the Plaza
To sit for a while to advise or consult my compadres.
In this sudden clearness of vision I saw my shoulders bowed down by my double
burden --
All my own work to do, all of Crusita's!
I saw myself slaving to keep the bean-fields in order, the cornfields weeded,
I saw myself hoeing long rows of chile, and planting and garnering squashes,
Sweating at chopping sabina through all the hot days of summer, to keep us
half warm in the winter;
Feeding the chickens, and leading the old cow on Sundays,
Along the Acequia Madre, to seek out those rare little patches of purple-
blossoming clover.
All these were the chores I had always done, but always before with the able
help of Crusita --
But henceforth to do them alone, the house-work also!
I knelt with my head in a mist as dense as a hail-cloud above the canon:
I mused on what lay before me.
Then, two and three at a time, the wives of the neighbors came in, and swept out
the rooms, and brewed strong coffee, and prayed at the side of Crusita;
Helped the little Crusita to close her mother's eyes;
Helped her to braid the hair soft on her mother's forehead;
Showed her the manner of crossing the strong, good hands that had labored so
long and so well for my every comfort;
Made the house quiet and dim for Padre Felipe.
When these things were finished at last I could hear the whispering women,
Between their "Ave Marias," telling each other of us, of me and Crusita --
"Now he sits like a man of stone, or an old man in his dotage,
Or like one with a cloud on his mind, a cloud of aloneness, perhaps, a black
spreading cloud of sorrow --
So does the strong man grieve for the good, dead wife, the kind and pious
Crusita!"
Then they said many times how suddenly old I seemed, how strangely unsteady,
Till their thought took root in my mind, and I said to myself, "Why not,
indeed?"
Why not don my dotage,
As in days gone by I had donned the blue garment of labor?

Why not grow old all at once, take on one of these "clouds" that the old women
whisper about with such neighborly relish?
A man with a cloud on his mind can still sit in the sun,
Can enjoy his savory dinner, inhale his punche, can even, perhaps, with the
help of these sympathetic women, direct the awkward but well-meaning efforts of
this so young and dutiful little Crusita?
For work -- well, somebody has to work -- all work gets itself done -- have I
ever hungered to do it?

So here sit I in the zaguan, in the sunshine, fiercely idle, fiercely happy,
Letting the winter sun shine on my body, warming my bones, making my blood warm,
warming my soul.
With a cunning like that of Coyote, who, undetected, creeps laden from out the
door of the hen-house,
I have snatched this delightful, this glorious idleness, from Time, and from
little Crusita.





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