Día de los Muertos #5

abuelita


how hard it must have been

not to be able to communicate with me

in my language, and my refusal to learn yours

how could i hear your stories?

how you loved the feel of books and the magical places

they could send you but in the third grade you

were taken out of school because your family had found

land to farm that was too far from town

and an educated woman had no worth in your culture

how you loved to dance, went to all the fiestas

and your poor brothers always ended up in fights

with the barnyard cocks who strutted too close for their liking

how you married a man out of resignation, saying "yes"

when you realized how limited your choices were

popping out babies with ease while your husband started chasing

freshly pressed dresses and the women who wore them

how you watched your children grow up with calluses

on their tiny hands

suffer from heat induced nose bleeds

as the family picked crops from Tejas to California

how their father bought a house for them to live in

then left you, moved on to a fresh start

how you fought the good fight and lost

as your sons became addicted to the dreams

they injected into their arms

how you succumbed to the asthma, retreated to your room

surrounded yourself with statues of baby Jesus, the Blessed Virgin,

and your favorite, St. Anthony...the votive candles would flicker

through the night, casting shadows of the holy across the walls

of the room (when you were asleep i would sneak in, pretend i

was watching a puppet show, and wait for the angels to come)

finally, how death laid an egg in your bowels

then made you wait for your name to be called out

in the black velvet pain of your longest night


my most vivid memory:

i am four or five, sitting next to you

on your bed, when you begin to unravel

the long silver braid touching the small

of your back

it smelled sweet like clean sheets

that had just been slept in

you smiled at me with your indian face

as you brushed and your hair looked like the

shiny plumage of a sacred bird

as you gently wrapped your arms around my tiny body

flew me to the moon

and back


published in McLife, 2005



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