Every time my pa would drive
With me in the backseat,
He would be silent
Except for the brief moments
Of broken prayers
I often wondered if he imagined
Himself on a dirt road
Somewhere in Miraplanes, Mexico
Searching for lost cattle,
Or for himself.
His bracero hands,
Tainted with earth
He’d be proud of
My interruptions would come
In the form of questions
“Are you proud of us?"
When I caught him
whispering to himself
He wanted to go back.
It is painful
Watching a root grow
Where it is not wanted.
Keep going back to the day
In my abuelo’s old pickup
On our way home from a charreada,
My pa’s rodeo jeans and sombrero
Matching my brother’s,
And I sitting quietly in the backseat,
With muddy boots,
And my pa saying,
“this is the last time you will get boots,”
A prophecy interpreted,
“girls aren’t meant for things like this.”
When I dream,
I see revolution in his eyes,
I see him
Escaping pal otro lado,
Full of color
Like an upgraded tv,
And I wake up and wonder
is that what a valiente looks like?
With a lasso and some hope.
Published in The Briar Cliff Review
My Pa lost his tongue
somewhere between El Rio Grande
y el Desierto de Sonora
while chasing the American Dream
he did not notice its absence
until he opened his mouth
and what came out
was more white noise than melody
the tongue- now shrunken and dried,
sits in the sand like a raisin.
The day he gave his naturalizing oath
he was told to offer his heart as sacrifice
the temple- the country that replaced his tongue
he now speaks with a recycled organ,
stressing syllables foreign to him,
foreign like him
I tell him Pa
you lost your tongue
but there is nothing
in this world that can
habla el Espanol
que tu sabes
in your own chest,
revive the heart,
the drum of life
it is still yours.
Me, I am different,
my supple tongue
speaks for two
los dioses Azteca
blessed me with a forked tongue,
like a double-headed serpent
Published in The Briar Cliff Review.
Freedom is a Fleeting Thing
for Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez,
murdered by U.S. border patrol on May 23rd, 2018
It is hard to imagine,
Your face half dirt, half blood,
Pressed against U.S. soil.
The only way this land will claim our kind.
This is what happens you see?
The agent reminds the three survivors,
As he places handcuffs on their brown, sun-scorched skin.
A misdemeanor turned murder,
When he refused to acknowledge
That your eyes
Held a story
Many will never get to hear.
Two weeks ago, you promised mamita
A better life back home,
Once you reached Virginia and your lover.
On the television screen,
Your mother begs for your body
To be returned
‘Where it belongs.’
The world mourned you.
We all have moments of silence,
When rage consumes us.
I often wonder if our voices still have sound.
When silence fills the air,
I think about the children in cages,
Their cries asking for any sign of familiarity,
From two lands who cannot raise them to take flight.
One they fled from, and the other only knows how to spit them back.
Did you feel what freedom feels like, before your eyes turned safety white?
Are you finally at peace?
I know San Juan Ostuncalco will always think of you,
Maya Nam hero.
This is what happens you see?
When it becomes too easy to
confuse human with animal,
Pointing aim at life,
At anything that dares to interfere
With Manifest Destiny.
Claudia’s dream did not belong in this America,
Only in fictitious history textbooks,
Making white man the hero
Of every scenario,
Disguising violence with promises of ‘greatness.’
Lady Liberty has turned her back,
Using the pretext of fear to close the golden gate.
This is no New Colossus.
In America, migrant dreams are flightless birds.
In America, you, the migrant cannot dream, lest you are dead.
This is what happens, you see?
When the world becomes devoid of empathy,
Filling in blanks with new names of the murdered,
Of the lost,
Of the forgotten.
To the ones in power: we demand action.
Words mean nothing
When Claudia cannot read, cannot see, cannot live.
When motherless children have dreams
Of light-up sneakers,
Ejected from courtrooms,
For their profane silence
When their mouths have yet to hatch the word mama.
This is what happens you see
When borders become militarized weapons,
And bodies become numbers,
Claudia was only 19 years old.
I think I’ve made it.
In the moonlight,
My skin is iridescent,
Its pearly whiteness
Teases me with privilege.
I shake it off,
Remember the children-
Where are the children?
Published in Glass Poetry Press, Poets Resist Series
On Being Woman (in ten parts)
The day I lost my accent, my voice was called sexy,
And I couldn’t help but think of my mother
Still repeating words for emphasis
As if the more she speaks, the faster
She will gain approval,
While I’ve become
An exotic dish
Expected to fill
I used to want to be more like my mother
Now she wants to be more like me.
The females in my family are plagued with unsatisfactory lives
Doomed by inaction
Sometimes I think of the sacrifices
my tribal ancestors have made
Both physically and ritually
Always throwing out
Haven’t we already given too much?
The kitchen is where one learns womanhood.
My Papa says I should know my place.
He said, that way,
I will find a man,
But what about my chosen place?
Like with her,
I learned womanhood the day
I learned her.
I am an angry woman
Because I love my culture
But hate its
Its unforgiving reverence to religion,
Because I have been taught to be quiet.
Because there is nothing beautiful about silence.
Because I no longer want to be like my mother,
Full of everything she’s ever had to swallow,
Because that’s what good women do.
I am still learning how to be a woman
There are days I don’t want to be a woman
My mother pleads with me to find my spirituality
that is all I will inherit
But I often question the value of her God
Question if her prayers hold any worth
When she still goes to sleep wondering
When father will tell her he loves her for the first time after twenty-three years
When she will stop feeling used on nights when all she craves is a conversation
When she will begin to feel like a woman
and not another piece of unfinished furniture.
How many times must you share your body,
before you begin to feel the confirmation of your own existence?
My sister wants to die.
She is only 13.
She doesn’t feel smart enough.
She doesn’t feel enough.
She thinks she takes up too much space
I’m beginning to sense a pattern.
I stopped wanting to be like my mother
Like my aunt
Like my grandmother
And I started wanting to be more like me.
Some days I still wonder
If I am woman enough.
Published in Roanoke Review.
You ask if I know where I come from. I remember the death of my father’s dreams, the sand, the sun - how it gives and takes, I remember the river of both water and blood.
I remember, how could I forget?
How could I forget the women in sus casitas, folding laundry, talking to their neighbors about no se que, secretly longing for their husbands, whose faces they swear they will not erase. Years consumed with tired prayers, their homes, makeshift altars, hungry for the ring of the phone.
How could I forget -- my grandmother who I only met in photographs, her eyes a sadness you cannot mistake. The day she passed on, alone, I bet she thought of her children, the years of longing, them too busy with their lives on the other side. They say she died of a collapsed lung, and I wonder if she spent her days holding her breath-- waiting.
My Ma also had dreams, dreams she still brings up at the dinner table, spoken with her mouth full, careful not to be understood. I know she never guessed her life would be consumed with mops and rags, whitening up spaces she is not welcome in.
I cannot forget the fear of those too criminal for dreaming, too desperate to give up. Every time I think of them, I imagine that if their exile had a sound, it would be of sobbing mothers and fathers -- guilt wrapped around their conquered throats.
I know where I come from -- a place that only knows of my existence when I call for it on nights when I feel the shedding of my skin, the swelling of my tongue evicting words, both becoming foreign. The place whispers reminders of my roots.
It tells me it is still waiting for me to come home.