marsmex
Mexican Hat Dance
by Betsy Mars

Golden, capped in the strong sunshine
against my father’s shoulder I stood tall,
and between my parents I felt alive

in this land so distinct and familiar.
The air was redolent with chocolate and spice,
electrical with lightning storms and surging hormones.

Taking the leap, cliff divers descended
in sheer drops for my entertainment
as I ate up the scenery and the sensation of being weightless.

My hat perched at a jaunty angle,
confident in a way I never felt
at home in a strange land.

Between pulpy bulls and bleeding fruit
proffered from vendors at the beach, I felt
like Hemingway discovering his muse —

but much less courageous,
cowering at night in the hotel room,
thunderstruck and hatless.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in Mexico at age 13. This is one of very few photos that exist of me in a hat. Hats were my mother’s domain, and she wore them well. I have no idea where this hat came from or why I was wearing it, but this photo captures a side of myself I rarely see in photos.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I hesitated to write for this prompt because, to me, hats were something that only my mother could pull off. When I wear them, I usually feel like a fraud, as if I am taking on a fake identity. Someone more bold. This photo brings back one of my favorite memories involving my parents. We took a trip to Mexico which was perhaps the first time I was abroad since leaving Brazil at age six.  It was an exciting and sometimes disturbing trip, but fueled my love for travel and experiencing other cultures.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a writer, traveler, mother, animal lover, and educator who is wearing a number of hats these days. Her work has been published in several anthologies, by Silver Birch Press, and soon will be published in the California Quarterly Journal and by Cadence Collective. Her writing is a means to define her identity after many decades of blurriness.