Every day she pushes two handtrucks
loaded with tapetes and blankets and bolsas,
one at a time down the cobblestone street
to a grove of trees by the lake;
She unties the plastic bundles
and strings her ropes in the towering trees.
I marvel at Conchita’s system,
a thrill of lassoing and knots,
using only her own, old body.
Each tapete, sewn to a stick,
has a partial hanger embedded.
With a long forked pole,
Conchita thrusts above her head
one tapete at a time,
hanging them thusly on her lines.
Each blanket, too, she lifts
with the pole that is taller than she is.
The straps of her bolsas, she loops
on a giant circular hook,
hung low for customers to browse.
A short and sturdy woman
with the presence of a mountain,
the weaver lives in a little room
up the street from the lake.
Someone says she’s from Oaxaca,
another says Guerrero, but Conchita
names her beginnings not at all.
The braid down her back
is still mostly black,
grey only over her forehead
above her dark and lively eyes.
Hijos? I ask. No, her response.
From her armsweep gesture, I cannot decipher
if her hijos are dead, or never were.
On Sundays Conchita builds her shop
and sits like a bodhisattva to tend it.
But Monday through Saturday,
reliable as daylight, she weaves
the web of her tienda and then,
without a costume change, transforms
into Spider Woman, Weaver Goddess.
Around a eucalyptus trunk, she fastens
one end of her backstrap loom.
She seats herself on the earth
at the exact stretching distance
for the tension of her loom,
and removes her plastic shoes to go to work.
Her strong feet point to the lake,
her arms begin their dance, and
her fingers perform, as if on their own;
Ageless and steady she weaves,
the rhythm of her motion
like the gentle waves lapping closeby.
Yet around her seems to sparkle
something of a trickster spirit.
Today, my water bottle ruptures—
When I jump up, Conchita points
at the growing puddle and grins.
Is that pee? Ha Ha Ha!
raucous as the parrot overhead,
she teases me.
The weaver with a twinkle
coaches the serious poet:
You must laugh about it all.
From separate worlds,
meeting at the sacred lake,
we laugh, the weaver and the poet.
People like me who see her working
cannot know her childhood,
cannot imagine what mother or aunt
from a long ago time and place,
taught her to weave and laugh.
I can’t know Conchita’s longings,
or comprehend the mettle
it takes each day for her
to stay at her work, with wit!
At the end of a day, even when
she sells no weavings at all,
Conchita’s laugh resounds like the call
of a solitary freebird.
When darkness descends,
she finds the strength,
this old woman weaver in Ajijic,
to dismantle her whole tienda
and haul it away again.
Like the imprint of an egret’s wings
crossing the sky over Lake Chapala,
each dusk, Conchita’s presence
beneath the eucalyptus trees—
tapete wall hanging
bolsa purse, handbag