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
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?”
“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.
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
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.
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.
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.