Cassandra de Alba


When Pancho Villa goes sledding,
he is not the first one down the hill.
Less essential members of the party
are sent ahead to ensure that the snow
is not booby-trapped, the sled is in good
working order, the ice at the bottom
will hold. Although it is on his orders,
Pancho Villa finds this tedious.

Standing at the top of the hill,
watching henchmen covered in white flakes
heave their way back up, he imagines his childhood
as it never existed, surrounded by friends
clutching wooden toboggans painted bright
primary colors. In this childhood,
it is always light out and never too cold,
and the snowflakes are as big and detailed
as a pretty woman's palm.

Pancho Villa sits down, then lies flat
on his back, spreading his arms out.
An assistant rushes up to make sure
he's all right. Pancho Villa waves him away,
then begins to make a snow angel,
pushing his arms up and down for wings,
forcing the snow out of his way.
Several henchmen look on mutely.

When the hill has been declared safe,
Pancho Villa starts down, wind squeezing
tears from his eyes, hard crystals of snow
collecting in his mustache. The flakes
seem to swarm, attacking, but he is moving
faster now at the bottom and out
over the suitably frozen pond.

When he stops, one of his men rushes
to carry the sled. Pancho Villa
leads the way up the hill. He feels
almost happy. He feels as if he is finally
getting something done.

Cassandra de Alba studied poetry and history at Hampshire College and is a Massachusetts-based poet whose work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Drunken Boat, and Illuminati Girl Gang, among others.

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