Poems

La Travesia
*Quote by the queen of Chicana Literature, Gloria Anzaldua

I am La Travesia,
border crossing mujer

born with my fathers strong hands and bent back,
years of construction work caving in his spine
cracking the bones behind his knees

He did it for me.
the only one in my family  to graduate
grammar school

My father built us a house made out of sticks and sweat, plaster and patience
the earliest picture of me was taken when I was two
at a construction site with my father, wrapped in drywall tape, grinning.

I am gold hoop earrings, earth tones and my mothers scarves.
border baby banging Selena and Tupac in my teens.
holding my father’s suffering songs in my throat while reciting a Tribe Called Quest.

A light skinned Latina with the last name of a bull
I never learned to speak my father’s language.
couldn’t cross that border
but he used to play games of the tongue to train me:
“Say strrrrrrrrrong as bull. That’s what we are, mija, strong”

My family is poker faces, baseball bats in the trunk, silk shirts, hats that cover our eyes, knives in our men’s belts, bruises on our women’s faces and paleteros crossing every corner.
We are a family of immigrants that came here

so that one day
I could happen.

So that one day,
we could take this land back.

*This land that was mexican once
indian always,
and will be once again.

I am la travesia,
border crossing mujer

because there will always be someone who wants to split us in two,

and create borders between us.

Because the lines that divide us, are only a cause to unite.
So let us become this border
by crossing it.

__________________________________________________________

God Machine

Once,
a friend brought me to a metal recyclery
where a steady line of men driving rusting, red trucks
drove and released their heavy load of scraps
into piles on the ground
where gigantic mouths with stiff, yellow peeling necks
opened their teeth to these men’s offerings
and spit them out
onto a slide that led up to an even bigger mouth.

All I could think was that this is how I must have been made.
A mess of sharp, discarded things
all mashed together
in the mouths of gods
and made to be soft.

__________________________________________________________

Letter to Dad,

It’s Father’s Day and i’ve been thinking about you. About the time
you called on New Years Eve crying because you
were so alone and I couldn’t wait
to get off the phone, dreamt of letting the receiver slip from my hand
to crash and bounce by my bare ankles.
I’m sorry
I didn’t know how to be good
to you.

Snow has been having a hard time.
Just had a new baby. No place to stay.
She said she wished you were still around to see your grandkids.
The night we found you,
stiff and blue as the bottom of the ocean,
something tore.
A thin piece of looseleaf paper ripped
down the middle of me
when you left
your brown bag body.

When Snow and I found you like that,
head slumped to your chest,
we screamed like the world
had just shook and we had no place to put our feet.
I touched your hand and it was frozen.
Not like your brown summertime
hands that used to rub the small
of my back when I couldn’t sleep and i’m sorry
for all the times I cursed you under my breath.
I didn’t know
there was a sickness
the size of one of the blue marbles you gave me for Christmas
growing in your chest.

I’m sorry because
I never got to say goodbye.
That I am still breathing and you are not.
I don’t remember getting up
from the floor after we broke
into your bedroom. Just my sisters arms
around my back and the blue and red
paramedics at the door.

I’m sorry because I won’t remember everything.
Because I am already starting to forget.

__________________________________________________________

How sand is made

I know sand is made from small bits of glass and rock cause my mama told me once.

And mama’s are always right.

We was squishing bug sand mountains, bare-toesded and I noticed the way everything that shined, puffed out it’s chest and sung to my eyeballs and I said

“mama, what made the sand? Why does it sparkle?”

Mama was picking pretty rocks n’ putting em’ in her pockets and when she turned to smile at me, her hair got all in her eyes & long smiling mouth & I laughed n laughed n laughed cause mama never really smiled all that much and now here she is tryna smile and her hair tryna taste the inside of her mouth.

Mama put the little green rock she was holding in my hand while she pulled the hair from out her mouth.

“those right there. They make the sand. And some little bits of glass and… fish poop”

eeeeeeeeeeeew.

I know how the sand gets made. It’s like when daddy rubbed so hard against the inside of my arm, my whole body heated up and little skin boogers rolled up on the surface. Pins of dead skin, daddy said. It scared me a little bit cause I thought… if he’d kept rubbing… maybe I’d just turn into one big booger.

What if we are all just boogers?

I know how the sand is made! Those rocks get all rubbed up on each other. Like those big waves mama can’t ever stop me from running into. They are like daddy’s rough hands. Always pushing. Always fist and grind and slap the dead away. And those rocks, those bottles and bits of trash all get ground down to their smallest self. To their… boogerdom.

Who knew, what we are. These silly legs, silly face and belly and nose.

Who knew we sparkled so pretty?