YYC POP: Poetic Portraits of Poetry, a Sheri-D Wilson Laureate Project

Mexican Train

– Laura Swart

In my childhood, always, I had my ears.

My ears, they were 180 degrees. It was very bad. My teeth—very bad too. Separated, one over the other. That was hard. All the bullying I got. Airplane, Dumbo. So I worked very, very hard. I save money, I paid for my surgery. And after the surgery, braces. And my life was like, dark, then dark and bright. I, I can’t describe. For me, was like the butterfly. The security, the confidence. You know, the attention of the people. All the girls—all the girls—like, I’m more attractive, beauty—but beauty depends, you know.

What should be beauty?

Because I, I was in the closet.

Like, I always knew it. I knew it. Like, you always know. Because when you are a child, you know it, but you are innocent; you, you don’t think about that, even though you know. You know who you are when you are a child. But, society, all the jokes people do. The jokes that make you keep your secret. Ahh, gay people! Ha, ha, ha! Everyone make fun—you don’t want to be that.

You don’t want to be that!

I already had the jokes: Dumbo! Airplane! I don’t need a cherry on top! Si! So I came out slowly. Because your friends don’t know you are gay, so it start to be a big, big stone in your arms. A heavy stone. I start to tell my friends, slowly, you know, one by one.

And then—my family open a restaurant, like rice and beans, tortillas.

And I became a server. It was very, very good. And always my mom, she cook tamales and she sell. Always she very hard worked; always was like, bzzzz, a bee. She—matriarca. How you say that in English? You know, the female, the mothers and grandmothers, is super important; the mom has control of the family. You go to the school, come back, mommy’s cooking; you eat, you grow up with the mom, mom, mom. The image of the mom, the grandmother, is untouchable. Untouchable.

The restaurant was close to the train station.

And at the train station, you see all the people on the train, trying to go through Mexico, into United States. Because all these countries, like Guatemala, Venezuela, Honduras—they are—hard time. No jobs. No jobs, no food. And a lot of people are racist with small countries like El Salvador or Guatemala or Venezuela, Honduras—but not Argentina. Not Argentina. Because Argentinian are more white. Blue white people.

We’re back to that, right?

Same situation as indigenous here. In Spanish, we say, wow! Their traditions! The Aztecs—we, we almost cry, like wow, I’m so proud of them, of their traditions, indigenous. But interaction, when you see indigenous people, you treat them like shit. If you look super indigenous, people is like, ugh. If you are more white, oh yes! You have much more opportunities. Because who was the servers to the Spanish people? The indigenous.

And the people on the train saying, Can you help me?

And when the train start, all these womans, mothers and grandmothers, they cook. Everyday huge, huge amount of food. All these woman, they cook all day, they give bags with food, and they no do it for they self. Nobody paying nothing. All these woman cooks, nobody helps—not the government—all these woman cooks.

And they just serve.

Because nobody wants to move from their country, you know? Like, nobody. They want to stay with the family; they want to stay with their jobs. Why you want to move and work like a crazy, completely alone in this new world? The people go on the trains, you know, they are on top of the train, jeopardizing their life. And for me is the same. People screaming, Go back to your country, Borat. A lot of people, Ha, ha, you look like Borat! That happening here. Still.

But I’m a server.

I know it. I always know it, like a child knows. Server. It’s in my life always—restaurants. I always around that, and I love. I love people and I love food, and I like you feel comfortable. You come to my restaurant—mi casa—and I treat you with respect. I like you feel happy. Comfortable. I know the perfect doses—when to talk, when to leave. I keep your table clean. I am careful, very careful, because maybe you never go out—you never go out—and is the only chance you have. You have this money and you want to have nice experience.

And I give you plates of food, like womans at the train.

Laura Swart

Author Laura Swart is passionate about writing and teaching. She has taught academic writing to post-secondary students for over twenty years, encouraging them to find and raise their writing voices. She is a published novelist and playwright and the director of I-AM ESL, an online language school that uses story and song to teach the intricacies of English to refugees. Laura’s degrees and research in education, philosophy, and theology have shaped her thinking and woven themselves into her classroom and her writing.  

Photo of Laura Swart