Two Poems

Reflections on Old Colony Mennonites in Mexico.

Darp Mechanics Revival: Manitoba Colony, Mexico, Late 1940s

Freizeit, such a fun time. Summer ends with a crunch
of Rollküchen and cool Rebooze on the tongue. Thick

Mumkjes swat flies, pretending not to notice the Junges
and Me’jalles sneaking to the shop behind the house. He called

her smokje Me’jal and she watched him caress
the buttons of a second-hand accordion. Cowboy

hat tilted back like Antonio Tanguma. Rey
de acordeón. El mero mero de las sierras. Tu eres

mi media naranja. That’s Spanish for my other
half. Playing “El Naranjo.” Her favorite. He learned

it in the cantinas while his brother hustled eight
balls into corner pockets and his cousin, fist rattling, screamed

he would smash the skull of the next Mexa who talked
shit about Dietchas. They stuck with him the first time

he saw her. Out in the road for Sunday bunching. Pony
tail smacking against her hips while she walked arms locked

with a brood of Darp girls. Mennonite cowboys, thumbs stuck
in starched belt loops. Swaggering, Kjnipse undone. Schloabeksje slung

across apple branches. Weltmenschen on a Straum Mumkje
prowl. Cherry Mooss cheeks whispered to one another behind

closed fingers. Eyes averting bodies defined by sweat. Before snatching
a second look. But Maria, silent, eyebrows raised, stared at Kjnals

and tilted her neck toward her parent’s Somma Stoowe. He nodded,
slipping a cigarette between his lips. Smoke rising in the darkness.

Los Narco-Menonitas (The Narco-Mennonites)

Border agents realized they were encountering an unlikely breed of drug smuggler.

BBC News, 2009.


Como hemos podido observar el problema
fundamental de los menonitas es precisamente
la falta de asimilación a nuestra comunidad
social y politica.

[La colonización menonita, 1974]1


Herman Swatsky keeps no less
than $20,000 in cash stashed
under his mattress and there

is more he buried in a toolbox next
to his shed. I watched him hide
the rolls of hundreds that time

when me and my brother dug his well
a couple months ago. His wife will be
home tonight. Tuesday is not a day

for visiting. I’ll knock, but wait
until I am inside. That way
she won’t know what’s coming.

He says he heard
it on the Mennonite radio, one of those

Saturdays he was listening
to jokes that aren’t funny

in English, singing along to hillbilly
gospel songs with a German

accent, that there are blonde haired,
blue eyed men in CERESO prison,

narco-menonitas from Chihuahua,
Junges with cell phones and gold

teeth. And even old Mumkjes, hollowed
out Bibles filled with marijuana.


Meth, coke, and dope stuffed into hollow
compartments carved into queso menonita,
muebles hecho por la mano en Durango,
and oversized semi tires seized by customs
officials at the Bridge of the Americas
and Peace Arch International Park.


Sus nuevas generaciones han nacido
aqui. Son mexicanos. Pero pretenden vivir
interjados como un grupo extraño. Es necesario
que cumplan integramente con sucalidad de mexicanos.[1]


Abraham Harms went out like any good padrino would,
como el Jefe, de los jefes. Super 40 Flowmaster,

treads flying off the custom chrome of his Pontiac
Firebird at 150 kilometers an hour. Smashing

face first into the ditch as the Cuauhtémoc
police came to collect their bribe.


The fishermen saw the flowers first, satin
glints stuck in the net, as they struggled
to load it into the boat. Fabric dripped,
rotten colors through tears in the mesh

and a black shoe thrust out and slapped
at their legs. Then, a hand, bloated
and split open fell out on to the deck.


[1] Excerpt from Alfonso Herrera Sánchez Pareja’s 1974 La Colonización Menonita: Aspectos Sociólogicos y Jurídicos (The Mennonite Colonization: Sociological and Legal Implications).

About the Author

Abigail Carl-Klassen

Abigail Carl-Klassen is a writer, researcher, poet, educator, translator, and activist living in El Paso, Texas. She grew up in the oil fields of the Permian Basin alongside Old Colony Mennonite immigrants from Mexico and has worked in education, language services, community development, social science research, and agriculture in a a variety of contexts across the USA and Latin America. She earned an MFA in Bilingual Creative Writing at the University of Texas El Paso, and her work has been published widely in English and Spanish, appearing in ZYZZYVA, Catapult, Cimarron Review, Rhubarb, Guernica, Aster(ix) Huizache, and others. She has published two poetry chapbooks, Ain't Country Like You (Digging Press) and Shelter Management (dancing girl press) and her full-length poetry collection, Village Mechanics, is forthcoming from FlowerSong Press in 2023. Recordings of her oral history project, “Rebels, Exiles, and Bridge Builders: Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Campos Menonitas of Chihuahua” can be found on the Darp Stories YouTube channel.