The Fighter / La luchadora: a poem

cholita-luchadora-copy

*For the Bolivian women wrestlers / Para las cholitas luchadoras*

This close to the sky, time rewinds.
The seam between now and ago
blurs in a cosmic twirl of folds.

With the sun cradled in an iridescent shawl upon her
back and the moon set to play in a pen of ink, Mother
can begin to make the earth again.

She steps into the ring.

See the snow-covered peak around her waist expand
in cascade, carved by bands of exploding wildflowers.
Watch Man face her, hiding behind a plastic devil skin.

Upon the bell he rushes, fires a flagrant elbow to the jaw;
boos settle upon his shoulders in heavy clouds. He sinks yet
lower, snatching at two thunderbolts bellowing from her scalp.
They dart from his fingers and point at what lies below.

“Look”, they whisper. “This is where you will soon
be. We all must return to the floor of Her womb.”

As promised, three-and-a-half rounds more
and Mother is taking hold of the equator.
Hands upon the top ropes, feet upon the
bottom tier, bouncing. she grins to bare
bloodstained teeth, a herald of creation.

Her legs rise to the sky.

So too the iron that flattens her days, the clay pot, the
woeful trinkets from her market stall. They are loosed
and climb, all scrambling for a spot amongst the stars.

Her body then strikes down, a new mountain planted into
the Andean spine. Man is wholly prostrated by the undulating
stone about Mother’s hips. By its ubiquitous boom.

And the crowd goes wild.

“Making Friends”: a short story

a-little-birdie-copy

All outward appearances suggested she would fit right in. Strawberry blonde braids. Blue eyes. A button nose. Proportions carefully traced between the extremes of plump and lean.

Yet Maggie was spending her first year of school utterly alone.

Her father had done his best to solve the problem by inviting a procession of classmates over. She wore her dress with a big red bow blooming from the waist and tiny cherries dancing along the folds of the skirt. There were dolls and a blue china tea set to play with. For lunch, he served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches immaculately shaven of their crusty beards.

Still, none of the girls ever returned. And they continued to snub her on the playground. Somehow they could tell she was different, and they didn’t like it one bit.

It was time for plan B.

“My little pearl, we must make some friends for you.”
“But we have already tried, Daddy!” The bridge of her button nose buckled in protest.
“No, I mean like this.”

He reached down to open the bottom drawer of his desk and took out a lacquered case of colored pencils. They were the silver-wrapped ones he used for work. As he lifted the lid she wondered at their tall and pointed bodies standing in rows, like proud warriors. He scanned the rainbow of lead, all the while stroking his wiry red beard. When he found the color he was looking for, a cobalt blue, he pulled it from the tin and began drawing on the pad in front of him. She climbed onto his lap for a better view.

First a light teardrop appeared, tipped over, as though a gust of side wind had ripped it from a cheek and was dragging it across the paper.

Next, another teardrop double the size was sketched just below and a little to the right of the first one. This one was tipped over in the opposite direction.

Then a miniature teardrop took shape right inside the giant one, following its exact outline.

“It’s a bird!” she shouted, squeezing her palms together in excitement. His whiskery cheeks lifted in a smile as he defined the beak, added a crest on its head,  some feathers on the wing and a pair of matching legs and feet.  Finally he stamped down the dot of the pupil, and the two sat in silence for a few moments, contemplating the drawing.

Soon there was a rustling of the paper. A wing fluttered, an eye winked, and one scrawny leg stretched off the page, followed by the other. Before the girl’s widening eyes, the little bird had crept into a third dimension and began hopping around on the desk. It chirped twice and stood perfectly still, staring intently at its creator.

Dad gave a slight nod of permission to the newborn creature, and it flew in one gentle arc up to his daughter’s shoulder. Maggie gasped, startled by the unexpected presence that had settled upon her. But as she exhaled, her breath unraveled into a stream of giggles. Miniscule claws were just barely pricking through the fabric of her puff sleeve, tickling her skin.

“Surely he has a name, he whispered. “What must it be?”

She closed her eyes and as he watched her he imagined wheels turning diligently behind those lids.

“Frank”, she responded. Her eyes popped open and she turned her head towards her shoulder. “Frank, let’s go outside.” The bird cocked its head to one side as she spoke, then sang a short, shrill note of affirmation.

The pair spent the entire afternoon in back. Every now and then the man would look up from his work and peer out to see the girl running back and forth in the yard, pausing here and there to pick dandelions or examine an insect, and Frank flitting around just above her, a floating shadow. The newfound companions scurried back into the house just as the last bright corner of sky was being swallowed by the rising tide of nightly ink.

Thank goodness the next day was a Saturday, because disaster had struck overnight and Maggie would not have been in any kind of shape to attend school. Something had happened to Frank.

She had told him to sleep on the windowsill because she was worried she might crush him as she slept. Her father had told her she must keep her bedroom window closed at all times, but for the very first time she disobeyed him. Frank simply had to catch up with the other birds in the neighborhood.

And then, during the night, an uninvited storm paid a brief visit to the area, its gusts of wind steering rain right through Maggie’s open window. In the morning, all that remained on the sill was a cobalt blue puddle of water.

“Please don’t cry, my little pearl,” Father pleaded. “We can make you another friend.”

“The same thing will just happen again, Daddy!” The rims of her eyes and her nose screamed scarlet. “I will just lose more friends.”

“No, honey. There are ways to make them last.” He sighed, smoothing his feral eyebrows with a thumb and index finger. “I don’t know why I didn’t do this for you a long time ago. I know this loneliness you’re feeling all too well.”

She opened her mouth to ask how, but again his voice was the one to fill the room.

“Just give me a week. I will fix everything.”

Considering the circumstances, her patience was commendable. As promised, for seven days she did not step one foot into Dad’s studio nor did she ask him when he would be finished. Not even once. She did, however, lie for hours in front of the crack at the base of the studio door, peering at the floor inside. While she chewed on a wisp of her sunny hair, she would scrutinize every detail of the furry slippers that hibernated under the desk or pace around the room.

“Go play, Maggie dear. I’ll take a break soon.”

But she couldn’t. She felt a life taking shape behind that door and it was already keeping her company.

On the final day, at about 4 or so in the afternoon, a little body was finally surrendering to the temptation of sleep upon the wood floor in the hall. This urge did not last long. A triumphant cry slipped through the crack and shook it awake.

“Voila, my little pearl, I have finished!”

Maggie scrambled to her feet and flung the door open. Dad was there with a paintbrush in hand and an entire palette of stains decorating his shirt, pants and arms. Next to him stood a girl. Another girl.

Yes, her undulating black hair was shaped into a short bob. Her face was punctuated with green eyes and a pointed nose. Yet otherwise it was just like peering into a mirror.

“You see? Certain media, like paint and varnish, will bring you a more vivid, more durable effect.” Now Father had placed his arm around the new girl’s shoulder and was coaxing her forward.

“Surely she has a name, he whispered to Maggie. “What must it be?”

“An Open Book”-art/poetry submission for the Peace Library at Sternberg Gallery in SLO, CA.

an-open-book-collage

Somewhere,
a small world incubates
between a pair of ears,
waiting to be
known.

Its
words
are sown in tidy
lines and subject to merciless
waves of pruning, of
supplantation, of
drought.

Yet
they
grow.

Worming
whispers into
beds of pulp. Sprouting
signals toward a paperback
ceiling.

And still
waiting to be
known.

Until another
unfurled mind takes it in.
There the world truly blooms.
There it can
share its fruit.

Indian Summer

elote3

Day is dying a neon death.
The house halfway up the hill is splayed wide
open, a TV chatting with the crickets.
They’ve propped a fan in the foyer to
suck in the last of summer’s fumes, to
dangle from her decadent stillness.
My eight-year-old shadow
floats by in the
soup, skipping
cracks in the sidewalk,
surrendering to that quadrupedal
pull of the Id
from the other end of the leash.

She Speaks With a Certain Silence

esquelerro2

All these years, and her
midnight lines still slice
right through the daily roar of traffic,
revealing the roots
beneath, all the sprouting smiles.

Back home, you kneel, thinking
how you have never seen
yourself in a better light than
when before her eyes.
They place you so very far and beyond
the mumbling flesh or babble of bones.

She speaks in a certain silence,
for hers is a love outside words,
rising and falling
under your hand, pressing
together the seam of your side,
stretching way out past the corners
long after she has
left the room.

-For Frida. We miss you terribly.

At the Back of Our Minds (II)

madrehija2
Dear Mother,

You come in kernels of
sunlight and raw maize. I press them to my tongue
so that your voice may flow through me,
a torrent of honey. It alone speaks
my name.

Our classmate,
when she could not see another god amidst the
clouds, she was planted waist
deep in the dirt while our hands were filled with
stones.
For days after the laden rain she
bowed before the sky,
the flies dancing around in praise of her
epiphany.
And of our betrothal to War.
We now carry his plot of homeland,
our own youth supplanted by
the rising bellies below.

Soon, a new night shall cry for warmth.
With her I will share your
song.

=============

As the title suggests, this piece is meant to  be a  a companion/successor to the first poem I wrote about he subject, ‘At the Back of Our Minds’. To date, of the 276 schoolgirls of Chibok who were abducted by Boko Haram in 2014, only 57 have escaped.  One of the girls, Amina Ali, was found safe, with child, in May of this year. In an interview, she gave an account of her experience as a captive. I used the details of this account as an inspiration for this poem: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-36653222. Let us not forget those who still remain far from home.