Across The Wire

Oaxaca Studies

By Wallace Barker

Levantate Campesino

zocalo draped in colored
flags and flashing
christmas lights

nativity feels near
emaciated beggars
we had mole three ways

and chapulines with pico
wide pedestrian boulevards
are a relief after narrow

sidewalks and coughing engines
i want to buy a t-shirt that
says “¬°levantate campesino!”

but i am not a campesino
and my support for their struggle
seems theoretical at best

a wildman covered in grime
walks past us in the plaza
he is naked from the waist down

a tiny old woman sleeps
on the sidewalk within
a barrier of plastic bottles

a makeshift wall for her protection


Dios Nunca Muere

we walked down steep concrete
steps to playa carrizalillo
at the bottom were men in fatigues
carrying machine guns

the beach was hot and crowded
only shade from umbrellas
above greasy plastic chairs
we found a narrow dirt path

leading over beach rock to
a small cove shaded by palm trees
two young men with bleached hair
sat on a towel lightly kissing

i felt we were intruding but we snorkeled
and observed the tropical  fish
i hit my knee on some rough coral
emerged with blood running down my leg

we took a whale watching tour
on a boat called “angelmar”
and found a pod of humpback whales
including two young calves

when they breached the surface
a fleet of tourist boats rushed over
we watched the whale flukes emerge
then disappear beneath dark waves

el capitan told us the fluke means
they are diving deep and unlikely
to resurface in such a crowded area
dolphins escorted our boat to shore

we walked across
playa manzanilla
to our rental house
we swam in the pool

just us this time
just our little family



clean light over the ocean
mesmerizing the violent surf
conjugating spanish verbs

sometimes current events
sneak into my consciousness
with the balcony doors open

i heard voices from the beach

in the morning we will return home
if god grants safe passage
we will leave the man who carries

a bucket around the tourbus parking lot
sits on the bucket to polish hubcaps
while the drivers read papers

the beach dogs skinny but
happy in a languorous way
they splash in the surf

scaring the gulls who peck sand
i wont sleep with the beach voices tonight


Wallace Barker lives in Austin, Texas. His most recent book “Collected Poems 2009-2022” is available from Maximus Books. His debut poetry collection “La Serenissima” is available from Gob Pile Press. More of his work can be found at