remember me

Amá always said she saw spirits.
they were everywhere–even en el rancho,
in between the cacti and rivers that coiled
around mi abuelo’s bright orange home. even in
los estados unidos, en el este de los ángeles
as light and fleeting as memory. los espíritus
are everywhere, the past creeping up like
ivy on a barbed wire fence, begging for
immortality.

the penguin man

his flip-flops squeak as he waddles down the hall. before he reaches the end of the hall, where our floor’s shared bathrooms are, he peers at the staircase and watches me trudge up the steps.
“hiya!” he exclaims. he pauses at the top of the steps. i smile politely.
“how are you?” he asks. i haven’t seen him since i moved into the apartment building, which was five months ago. i respond with a generic, “i’m good. how are you doing?” he ignores my question. instead he replies, “you work, right?”
i nod.
“what is it that you do, exactly? the landlord told me you were a counselor.”
i am shocked by his abruptness. i vaguely tell him that i’m not a counselor–i’m actually an americorps volunteer.
i ask him, “how about you, what is it that you do?” i am still a little stunned by his forwardness.
“have a good night!” he answers, and waddles over to the restrooms.
*
i need to be the one doing the questioning.

the lemon tree

pharmaceuticals are bullshit.
have you heard of the lemon tree?
he whispers, and reads my skeptic expression
as a preacher’s invitation:

man-made drugs don’t heal us, sister,
but our family does. the trees, the earth,
the lemon tree, have been here for
thousands of years–and it’s free.
there are no excuses, drinking lemon water
will change your life. have you heard of the
lemon tree?

i tell him i know all about lemons–
the other day i got lucky,
7 lemons for 3.99.

the self-proclaimed jesus of the lemon trees
shakes his head. he says, you don’t have
to pay to live in abundance sister.

he glances around the room and mumbles,
i’m looking for a priestess, and you can’t carry the word.

in a cotton dress he swears he dyed with berries,
he floats around the room, searching for the
undiscovered priestess of the lemon tree.

awaiting change

while standing on the edge of a mountain,
its stone paths as flat as the moon’s,
i look down and search for something
marvelous. of course, the mountain itself
is marvelous and so are the trees
that hug its base and the winds
that whisper song lyrics to the birds,
birds that are marvelous.

still searching and anticipating
serendipity, there is silence.
i try to drink these images, but instead
they replay a montage with the same image in different
shades of sepia—and then i remember that i can’t
refill a cup that’s already full.

our muddled selves

conducting her nightly ritual, she searched the full length mirror in her bedroom for tranquility. as expected, she saw the disarrayed bed behind her and her absence in the reflection. she had suspected for sometime now that she was perhaps one of those ghosts who didn’t know that they were one, which would explain why her reflection never appeared in the mirror. she would understand her her lack of memory, and the specific memories that haunted her in this afterlife would bewilder her: a last look of herself on her wedding day to an unknown partner, a moment in elementary school when she pooped in her dress during a test, and her little brother’s smile.

she walked up to the mirror, and with the wind of frustration she punched it. shards of glass jumbled on the floor and slit her hands and feet, thrilling them with the high of stings. feeling content with evidence of consciousness, because she believed that ghosts couldn’t feel, her figure began to emerge from a lost realm. but when she looked down at the rose-colored shards and didn’t see her face, only the white ceiling above her, she crushed the pieces and bloodied her feet even more.

unknowingly, her body began to fade away again, surrendering to a reality she fought her best to control.

being in love (with food)

my hunger for you
awakens me from deep sleeps and
your scent guides me through new york labyrinths
revealing different versions
of your skin.

my lips touch
your unexplored, untouched surface
and we climax.

you leave me afterwards
but i feel like i no longer need you.
until five hours pass,
then i lust for you.

we begin, we end, i forget, i need
i don’t mind this fickle romance.

who knew shrimp cocktails
or crispy chicken sandwiches
would outlast the casanovas
of our century

lost in menstruation

i have a small white scar on my left arm, near the crease of my elbow. i got it a few years ago during my period.

i remember i didn’t go to school that day. i mostly stayed in bed and drank hot broths and chamomile teas. during this time, i hadn’t discovered ibuprofen—my doctor never mentioned it to me. she told my mother and i that the only way to get rid of my cramps were by taking birth control pills. my mother, who had heard about the possible significant change in hormone levels, acne, weight gain, and potential blood clots through her favorite radio nutritionist, told the doctor that we would find another way, a more natural way. since then, during my period cycle, my mother would warm up tortillas and place them on my lower abdomen to ease the pain, give me warm liquids, and administer calcium and msm vitamins. she also did this for me on the day i got the scar.

it was late afternoon, and i was covered in a thick blanket, the breeze of a mini fan caressing my face. my body temperature felt both hot and cold, but more cold than hot; i figured that if i kept the fan on, it would cool my body down and i can just warm myself up. although my plan was successful, my lower abdominal area still ached terribly. i rose my knees to my chest, laying on my right side and then on my left, my body unable to determine which side felt better. “I Love Lucy” reruns murmured in the background, and as much as i tried to laugh with Lucy and Ricky, the pain was too distracting. i whimpered to myself. the cramps were too sharp and lasting too long, like the months before. i prayed, begging the virgin mary to let me fall asleep so that the pain would be gone for just a little while.

i finally fell asleep. i felt much better when i woke up, and by this time it was late evening. i needed to use the restroom, so i headed there confidently, pleased with my body, thanking it and the virgin mary for stopping the pain. as i shut the door to the restroom, i collapsed on the full length mirror that was propped up against the wall.

i don’t know how long i was laying there before i regained consciousness, but i wasn’t there for too long because i was still bleeding. pieces of the mirror were scattered across the restroom linoleum floor, my legs and thighs poked with shards of varying sizes. strangely, it didn’t hurt.

i got up, swept the floor with a broom, and questioning what had just happened. i had never fainted before. as i was putting the broom away, i noticed a piece of the mirror stuck near the crease of my elbow.

note: i tell this story because i’ve encountered girls and women who feel that their menstrual pain is only unique to them. i felt this way at one point in my life because at the time, i didn’t know anyone close to me who suffered from severe menstrual cramps. once i met others who also experienced awful cramps—some worse than mine—i realized that i wasn’t alone and that they weren’t alone. women and young girls who experience severe menstrual cramps and those who don’t experience cramps at all, you aren’t alone. none of us are.

cat eyes

two full moons,
enigmatic and overwhelming
heavily stare at the peels in the paint
on the ivory, off-white wall
in our living room.

is our beloved cat
observing the aura of a family portrait,
the empty eyes of a ghost staring back,
or the dead bug crushed on the wall?

her eyes, the moons
build intrigue
among their onlookers.

our cat’s unyielding gaze
breaks
as i whisper her name
for the fifth time.