Neighborhood Run, Outskirts of Oaxaca

Robert Stout

Almost to the crest he had to stop,
panting. A ragged rooster yattered
what could have been a warning – or command.
Just beyond the uphill curve a scream
and wads of spark-strewn smoke. Deep breath
then running: Grass and weeds aflame,
a tripod overturned, hot coals crackling;
toddler, shirtless, barefoot, kicking dirt
against the burning; a woman, long hair swirling
past her features whacking with a blanket,
screaming admonitions. He seesawed
the loosely wired fence, a dog lunged
towards him barking, the woman shouted
and the dog hunched growling as he joined
their stomping out the crackling flames.
On hands and knees the woman
and the toddler searched and plucked up
scraps of pork rind they’d been frying,
scooped hot coals into a dented
cooking pan. He backed away and the dog
followed, nipping plastic from his running
shoe as he re-climbed the fence.