when i think of you

my mother’s stories trace the edges
of your modest mountains and
knead the bumps of your dry, flat lands.

my mother sighs. cuando era niña,
preparabamos la masa para las tortillas
desde las cinco de la mañana.
these mornings
crept behind my grandfather,
who wore straw hats and plaid button-up shirts with
a shiny, silver belt buckle that reflected
the stars. my mother recalls
when he bought her those
zapatos de cuero. the ugliest shoes she’s
ever had, she says.

méxico. where my mother laughed for the first time
like the way fire crackles beneath el comal. méxico,
where her mother sung lullabies in the darkness
and waited for mi abuelo to come home. méxico,
where drunk men cry together at parties because
los borrachos siempre dicen lo que sienten.
méxico, where women like Layda Sansores
don’t give a fuck and boldly stand before oppressors,
sin miedo.

méxico, this happens when i think of you.

spanish interpretations:
cuando era niña, preparabamos la masa para las tortillas desde las cinco de la mañana: when i was a young girl, we would prepare the dough for the tortillas since 5 o’clock in the morning.
zapatos de cuero: leather shoes
el comal: cast iron comal
mi abuelo: my grandfather
los borrachos siempre dicen lo que sienten: drunks always say what they feel.
sin miedo: without fear.

un cuentecito / a little story

mi papá me llamó–las lágrimas de su niñez corriendo por las
arrugas de su carota de seis años. un niño
con los cachetes inflados porque tuvo miedo
subirse al avión y volar por los cielos vacíos.

se entierra bajo las montañas de california,
bajo la luna oscura de sus sueños. cuando llora solo,
oigo sus gritos y la tierra tiembla bajo mis pies. me recuerda
que soy una hija de las montañas y no de los cielos–
no fui creada pa’ volar.

te quiero papi, te quiero
más en retrato que en foto.

___________________________________________________________________

*english interpretation*

my dad called me–his childhood tears slipping through the wrinkles
on his chubby six-year-old face. a child with
swollen cheeks who is afraid of getting on an airplane
and flying through the empty skies.

he buries himself under California mountains,
under the obscured moon of his dreams. when he cries alone,
i hear his screams and the earth trembles beneath my feet. he reminds me
that i am a daughter of the mountains and not the skies–
i was not made for flying.

i love you daddy, i love you
more in a portrait than in a picture.

swings

mi querida mami sways from side to side
holding herself while looking up at the ceiling fan
in the darkness of our little kitchen, with the sink water running

she mutters avemarías y padre nuestros and swears that tonight is it
tonight is the night we’ll all run into the night holding hands
without him.
without my father.

ten minutes later i don’t hear the sink water running anymore.
she mumbles, hoy no. the children are still in school,
she has to go to la fábrica tomorrow, he financially supports us–
this isn’t so bad.

we’ll leave some other time, she says. ya casi.
she’s said this in our small yellow bathroom,
in our cluttered bedroom.
we tell ourselves too
que ya casi.

meanings of spanish phrases:

mi querida mami: my dear mom
avemarías y padre nuestros: hail mary and our father prayers
hoy no: not today
la fábrica: the factory
ya casi: almost

spanish girls

in midwestern diners, they order horchata, frijoles, y arroz
and squeeze their watermelon hips on red, plastic stools
while waiters savor their flavorful accents
dripping of rumored mojitos, tequila, y piña colada.

onlookers whisper, they’re spanish girls
and listen to the humming of tenochtitlan in their voices.
where are you ladies from? waiters ask, and
they don’t say spain.

old palm tree leaves, tangy cocktails, juanas y marias
la rojigualda

brand their faces, despite the taste of
other earths on their tongues, spurting with everything
but the lives of spanish girls.

resting with work shoes

“los mexicanos son bien machista.” – a saying

Licha, a slim, middle-aged woman, drops her small, faux-leather purse on her bed just after she arrives home from la fabrica. She glances at her watch. It is 5pm. Her eyes close, and she imagines her body sprawled on the bed, her latte-colored skin feeling the breeze of the metal fan behind her. In a bit, she tells herself. In a bit I can rest.

Her husband had been waiting in the living room on their brown, suede sofa. He arrived an hour and a half before Licha. When he came home, he took off his shiny-black work shoes and changed into a pair of basketball shorts and a muscle shirt. As he sits on the sofa, he stretches his legs and rests his hands on his belly. He greets Licha as she makes her way to the kitchen.

He tells her that he wants enchiladas for dinner. Make them real spicy, he says. Those are the best. Licha nods. Her husband smiles at her and continues to watch las noticias.

Licha begins to make the chile. She decides to use the chile de lata—he won’t know the difference, right? She pours the red chile into a pot and stirs, adding other chile powders and herbs. Meanwhile, she heats corn tortillas, careful not to burn her fingers as she flips them. She places the tortillas on a plate and makes the stuffing: baked chicken with cilantro, chopped black olives, a little cheese, and a drizzle of the chile sauce. Now, the chile is done; she dips the already heated tortillas inside it, coating them red. She sets it on a separate plate and fills the tortilla with the stuffing. Licha folds the tortilla like a taquito and places it on an oven-safe tray. She repeats this process until the tray is filled.

While Licha sprinkles cheese and black olives over her enchiladas, her husband appears in the kitchen. You made enough so that I can some take to work, vieja? he asks. Licha replies, claro, viejo. Her husband nods at her response. He loves when Licha makes his lunch. See, you won’t have to prepare anything for my lunch tomorrow, he says. I’ve done you a favor, querida, he says. He serves himself some apple juice and talks about his day at work. Licha listens as she slips the tray in the oven.

Licha is washing dishes while waiting for the enchiladas to cool—she took them out a few minutes ago. It is 7:30pm. Her husband enters the kitchen again. He opens the fridge and grabs slices of ham, sandwich cheese, and mayonnaise. What are you doing? asks Licha, confused. The enchiladas will be ready in a few minutes. They’re just cooling down, she says.

Her husband snorts. You should’ve made me something else in the meantime. You know I have to wake up early to go to work. I have to go to bed soon, he says while spreading the mayo on wheat bread. I’m tired, he says.

Licha protests. I work too, and I’m also tired, she says. Are you really going to waste my time and energy? she asks. He sits down on their sofa and ignores her. She raises her voice. She tells him that he is a malagradecido, among other insults. He shoos her away. Déjame comer en paz, he says. Licha continues to express her frustration and her husband continues to disregard her.

Before shouting, Licha thought her husband would listen to her this time. One day he’ll realize he can’t do that to me, she thinks to herself. He won’t be so terco.

She serves herself a few enchiladas and walks to their bedroom, alone. She situates herself on the bed and lays against her fluffy pillows, sitting upright against the mahogany headboard. She turns on the television and begins to watch a novela called, Lo que la vida me robó.

Licha doesn’t realize that her work shoes are still on.

meanings of spanish words used:

*los mexicanos son bien machista: Mexicans are machista
*la fabrica: the factory
*las noticias: the news
*de lata: from the can
*vieja: (in this case) old woman, used to refer to one’s girlfriend or wife
*claro: (in this case) of course
*viejo: (in this case) old man, used to refer to one’s boyfriend or husband
*querida: (in this case) beloved
*malagradecido: ungrateful person
*Déjame comer en paz: Let me eat in peace
*terco: stubborn
*novela: a television soap opera
*Lo que la vida me robó: a tele-novela titled, What Life Stole from Me