I am the bull dragged
across a sandy bullring in Cancún,
a carcass, spent and bled to death.

The tourists—Japanese, German, Chicano, and even gringos—
don’t know they just witnessed a travesty, they cheer
a gutted ritual. No honor. No glory.

I gave my life for this?
When I was poked and raced into the ring,
I moved just so,
escaped the ribbon marker.
“Saltillero” me nombraron,
a worthy name, an honorable name.

Puny men tease me,
poke and try to anger me.
They fail.
The banderillero, big as a bull,
rides a horse, poor beast of burden;
pokes and fails.

The sharp knife enters swiftly,
and I know what’s coming. Feel it
as sure as I breathe,
with nostrils wide, huffing.

I see dark pink—the matador’s cape,
      shiny sequins in black and white.
I am color-blind, you say.

So I’ve heard, but I assure you I hear the color,
smell the red of blood and the brown of sun-bronzed skin.

Movement I must follow;
perplexed and tired, I sniff the earth,
following my scent
to the source of death.

He bends, and I hear, “Olé.”
I flick an ear,
the right, then the left;
I flick my tail.
I stand calmly,
appear not interested,
then I follow through
to my imminent end.

The crowd roars and stands;
I lie and die
on a Wednesday afternoon
en Cancún.
Red with beer and sun,
the tourists cheer
amid the stench of blood and sweat.

It’s five o’clock
on a Wednesday in Cancún.
I die.

From Meditación Fronteriza: Poems of Love, Life, and Labor (The University of Arizona Press, 2019) by Norma Cantú. Copyright © 2019 by Norma Cantú. Used with the permission of the publisher and the author.