Category Archives: Noise

Mexican Alarm Clocks


For sixteen years, I’ve been watching Canadian and American expats flood into Mexico and most, no matter how charmed they might be with Mexico, have the same main complaint—the profusion of VERY LOUD sky rockets that are set off by the thousands during festivals, beginning at the very early hour (by gringo standards) of 6 A.M.

I have a piece myself, written on my first morning in Mexico 22 years ago when my husband and I awoke to what we were sure must be the cannon fire of a revolution in Oaxaca.  Alarmed, we sat cowering in our room that thankfully opened onto an inside courtyard until the artillery ceased and the city seemed to awaken to a normal day.  Familiar sounds of cars, donkeys, water vendors, gas vendors, vegetable vendors and motorcycles filled the morning air and we ventured out.  Knowing no Spanish at the time, there was no one to ask about the early morning sounds of battle until we met another gringo couple in the Zocalo and asked if they knew what the early morning artillery fire had been about.  They were polite and didn’t laugh too loud as they explained the Mexican fondness for cohetes (skyrockets) and their purpose.

After moving to Mexico a few years later, I became very well acquainted with their presence not only during holy festivals but also fiestas and celebrations of all sorts: weddings, birthdays, mother’s day, quinceañeras, christenings. After 16 years of living in this country of vivid colors, tastes  and smells,  noise seems to be as important as any other sensory excess while celebrating and living life. This poem, discovered in the bowels of my computer and written 20 years ago or more, now seems the norm:

San Miguel Morning

The sounds of rooting cats
like infanticide
tuba music
in 4/4 time.
Donkey brays.
6:29 in the morning.

All’s right with the world.

If you are curious about just why all these skyrockets are necessary and why the complaints of gringo invaders will always fall on deaf ears, read this excellent article on cohetes by Craig Dietz.

The prompt today was noise.

Full Volume

(Click on first photo to enlarge all.)


Full Volume

I hear my neighbor’s fighting cocks crow into the night,
expressing their readiness for tomorrow’s fight.
There are always noises cutting through the dark.
I hear the donkey’s braying and the dog’s loud bark.

Some neighborhood weekend party goes on ’til four or five,
expressing at great volume that they’re glad to be alive.
The singing and the music and the fireworks exploding
that sometimes make me feel as though my head may be imploding.

The church bells in the village every quarter hour declaring,
trucks advancing street by street, loudspeakers rudely blaring.
One truck selling vegetables, another selling gas,
shouting out their wares to everyone they pass.

Others selling water or cooking oil or soap,
scrub brushes or sponges, plastic buckets or rope—
Motorcycles without mufflers roaring down the street
revving up their motors for every friend they meet.

Bandas in the plaza play at a decibel
that I swear could raise the bats straight up out of Hell.
Mexico isn’t subtle. It’s bright and bold and proud.
That’s why for everything in Mexico, the volume’s turned up LOUD!!!!



The prompt word was volume.

Work Ethic / Canción de México: Two Poems

The Prompt: Gut Feeling—When’s the last time you followed your instinct despite not being sure it was the right thing to do? Did it end up being the right call?

Work Ethic

There’s something stirring in me. I do not know its name.
It whispered to go seawards, so that is why I came.
I do not know the object, though once I thought I did.
Once here the book I thought I’d write left my mind and hid.

I find that I am drifting like a seabird on the swell;
and so far that is fine with me, in fact I like it well.
Instead, I write these ditties that I finish every day,
forsaking what I think I should to just write what I may.

No need for all the boring things: research, footnotes, citing.
Whatever is in front of me is what I end up writing.
Some might say that it’s responsibility I’m shirking,
but I say that I’ve simply learned to go with what is working.

Canción de México
(Song of Mexico)

This small café sits on the square, or rather the rectangle.
The gas trucks pass by, blaring “Gaaaaas,” their grounding chains a-jangle.
Trucks and cycles lacking mufflers roar by every minute,
bass blaring from each car window without much music in it.

The guinea fowl make such a ruckus that they sound insane,
but to complain about the noise in Mexico’s inane.
The daily garbage trucks, the water truck and all the rest
all live by the assurance that what’s loudest is the best.

I drink my coffee, eat my muffin, try to grin and bear it;
but when she sets a napkin down, I grab at it and tear it.
And even though one part of me says that I shouldn’t dare it,
I use a bit to wipe my lips. The other part? I wear it!

I stuff a wad in either ear, and though I still hear all,
I go by the illusion that I hear it from afar.
Sometimes I feel the threat of age, so quickly it is nearing;
but if I lose one faculty, dear God, please make it hearing!