From Nightbloom & Cenote
"Weep Holes in Body," Tinderbox Literary Journal, January 2018
"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
A sky of bills burgeoning into men’s faces floated down
to my mother. Moths that had stayed
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,
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
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
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
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
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
tears. Her head allowed to rest on a cradle of white
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
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
of years she turned away from.
The eyes that hated the fat or the bony
or the beady-eyed and the whorish in every
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
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.