From Nightbloom & Cenote

"Weep Holes in Body," Tinderbox Literary Journal, January 2018

“Audre Lorde Questions Me or How To Be a Nobody, a Loser, a Zero" and "Ode to Roots Cracking Sidewalks," Rogue Agent, June 2017

"Paper Doll Chain," "Headlong," "Animal Life," Luna Luna Magazine, May 2017

AFTER HER DEATH, WE FIND HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS IN MY GRANDMOTHER'S CURTAINS

(a version of this poem previously published by Tap Literary Magazine)

 After her death, thousands of dollars                

   floated out from the curtains,          pouring out

like dusk.

A sky of bills burgeoning into men’s faces    floated down

 

to my mother.                         Moths that had stayed

   hidden

in the same coat,         same sleeve. Ten thousand dollars.

 

Now paper planes sent from a child

to another       child. A secret,

 

hidden from the nuns             with their        tight

and coiled buns. Money hidden in     closets,

 

in pillowcases,              crisp with the smell of receipts,

   mothballs, waiting

for my grandmother's death

            to be spent. Twenty dollars from making a wedding dress in 1952.            Bills forgotten from a social security check cashed in 1971.

 

My grandmother's hands held

 

a belt, deftly,               as if she knew how to beat a horse

so that it was broken, then ride it until it forgot

it was a horse.

 

Most of the time, in the kitchen         spilling a fistful of

   lard

into a black cast-iron pan.      Watching beans, chicken,

rice, boil and boil. Then calling the men

to come eat.

 

At the funeral, my mother clutched

night-blooming jasmine in her hand. Its leaden

   perfume

that drowns out          stars and the oak trees' clutch

of soil, heavy blanket             of sickened sweet

   when the night opens full of that expansive

dark and then is usurped by that tiny clutch of white

   petals.

 

I have made her memory into            wings, I have

shaken them                                        from my own coat.

Isn't that what we do, take

what dark things our parents & grandparents held

tenderly, shuck them off.

   Lay our hands in the dirt    to remove       

the smell.

 

Scentless now, stock-still, her body

 

half-hidden by the coffin and its décor of      anemic white lilies, carnations,

larkspurs, gerbera daisies, roses,       patient in its waiting

   to be tossed

            in the waste-heap.

 

The trick of her body that belied warmth, sweating its

   leftover

tears. Her head allowed          to rest on a cradle of white

   pillows.

And the crucifix wrapped securely around

her wrist, not once,                            but three times.

 

The Gothic Christmas scene in her foyer, animals of every fang and hoof, giraffes and elephants and pigs, twenty-three ducks, swarming the baby in animal longing, the

 

 

white baby Jesus resting in his radiant humanness. The

   worms

 

are going to eat me, she’d like to say to me as a child, hoping to force love out of me. And into her heavy breasts I'd tuck           a smile, please let it be, to make my mom stop crying when we leave your house.

 

At three, at five, seven, and then

thirty, standing in the hallway

 

of the hospital as my mom sat with her to be scolded one last time before she died.

Her body,                    the area where her legs belonged sunken as if dripping

off of the edges of the hospital bed,               her torso and its stiff

 

holding up of the sheets, like it didn't want to be touched.

 

¿Porqué nunca me ves? I am trash to you. You throw me away just like I found your mom thrown away in a dumpster. You know I found her in a trash bag.

 

At ninety years old, her eyes watery      and brimmed with

   bruises

of years she turned away from.

The eyes that hated    the fat or the bony

or the beady-eyed                   and the whorish in every

   girl,

tried to            smother them in a bathtub's reflective

            sheen of water.

Then stared    listening to her own chest crackle     open

                        when her own daughter told her

how he pulled her in the closet,         unzipped

 

 

his pants. And she does nothing.

 

That    see her granddaughter           reading a book,

and say it's a way to store men in her closet             to be a

   whore,

learning new ways     to be a whore,

 

to stash men               like shoes or money.

 

Letting yarn unravel long and long from her lap.

Ask how pretty is your Lita.

 

Now my mother,                    reaches for a bill, another bill, one for each time                  she was orphaned.

First by her teenage birthmother,

then her adoptive father that died young.

Kept by a woman who raised her to be a nun and caregiver: locked her      in a box           of God Hail Marys & fists & belts and the Devil with his roaming hands.

 

Dear Mother, every-

thing can be mourned            even this

 

these men’s faces                    laying their eyes on                laying

 

their    animal eyes of forest green and moss      on us.         I want

to spend it       this pile of blank wings    called mourning: a bird that saves          flight               until it’s about to die

            pecks and pecks and pecks that worm                       a hunger a hunger that grows           wild,            clutching its tiny white petals.                     

 

I wish, Mother, that for one minute

your mother had loved you.

 

Now, let’s spend this dough like crazy.