upward bound / hacia arriba

praices

From your patio you see
the asphalt serpent.
She passes hurriedly,
searing the surface,
with wasps of conquest
bullfighting upon her back.

You close the gate.

You sink your roots into the earth,
kneading the years,
stroking the centuries,
the millenia,
sipping the amber
that they whisper to you
in return.

It is not that the buzz
never nibbles at your insides.
You simply know
you want to grow upwards,
not out,
and that you are here, after all,
to bear fruit.

——–

Desde tu patio ves
la culebra de asfalto.
Ella pasa de prisa,
chamuscando la superficie,
con avispas de conquista
toreando sobre su lomo.

Cierras la verja.

Te hundes las raíces dentro de la tierra,
amasando los años,
acariciando los siglos,
la milenia,
sorbiendo del ámbar
que te susurran
de vuelta.

No es que el zumbido
nunca te mordisquee por dentro.
Simplemente sabes que
quieres crecer hacia arriba,
no hacia afuera,
y que estás aquí, después de todo,
para dar frutos.

-For Mercedes/ Para Mercedes

Your Heart of Darkness Reclaimed

perico

You may be washing your cocktail glass with
care at the sink but
the countertop
is about to spit out its fourth tile this month.
Her lip flaunts the blank spaces on the map.

Surely by now you’ve also noticed the lizards making a revolving
door out of the A/C unit in the corner and how
the mosquitoes
the courteous hosts that they are
fuss and flit about
determined to unload you of that
cumbersome coat of flesh
before you enter the sinkhole opening at your chest.
El cenote.

Pay no mind to Conrad
(he of little faith).
Let the Fibonacci spiral fold you into the black
knowing
that those verdant hands offer you a
perennial embrace
that the simian howls are terrifying only
for their unguarded honesty
that the sweat that rolls out of every pore
shines
just like the afterbirth you wore
when the very Mother first placed you on her
heaving breast.

-Gracias a los cariñosos y sabios costarricenses, expertos en La Pura Vida
(Thanks to the loving and wise Costa Ricans, experts of the ‘Pure Life’)

The Last Refuge-a poem

piernas
I must say
I did not picture our destination so green
nor so spacious
or kind.
Peace now percolates
wrapping up the booms and blasts in fat bubbles
whisking them far away to the surface.

I dig my toes into the rejoined community of
Grandmother’s dishes
the bow of the bathtub
hearty chunks of a neighbor’s wall
all atomized like clay pigeons
for the sport of antediluvian urges.

Another yellow blimp lumbers by
baring its obscene yellow belly
bloated and writhing with more bodies.

We have lost El Bab
our door
and everywhere else the land looks upon us with the
weary eyes of a bitch, her teats teeming with pups.

Only the water greets us with outstretched arms.
The open sea.


The other day while I was driving I caught an interview on NPR
with Christopher Catrambone, the founder of a non-profit organization that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean (http://www.npr.org/2016/05/31/480100272/
hundreds-of-refugees-die-in-shipwrecks-in-the-mediterranean). What was relayed in the brief conversation jerked me out of my rosy little life for a moment and reminded me of the extreme human suffering that persists after more than 5 years of war in Syria. In an 8 day period at the end of May of this year, at least 1,000 people lost their lives at sea in an effort to migrate to Europe. This is apparently one of the “deadliest periods” to date of the migration crisis. Such is the loss that there is not enough deck space on the rescue ships to hold all of the bodies they are retrieving from the ocean. In essence, as Mr. Catambrone asserted, “the Mediterranean is, again, becoming a cemetery.”

This poem attempts to provide a voice for the many who have perished at sea. It is dedicated to the Syrian people, and to all refugees who are struggling to find a place where they can feel at home again. They cannot be forgotten.

Como el agua- a story

gotitadeagua

Mara sings. She sings more than she speaks. When others are around, her melodies are soft and distant, as though stretched into wisps through a shortwave radio rather than released from behind her own lips. The hum lingers with a longing for something, someone, somewhere.

It’s contagious.

As the skinny girl’s voice wafts above remnants of sidewalk, Mrs. Santos in her lawn chair begins to suck at her teeth, nursing a ghostly mango from her motherland. Next door, Andy finds the girl from last summer’s fair bursting into his thoughts. He stumbles from his board and rolls into the grass, dizzy again with the pull of that first kiss. It goes on like this all the way down the street.

Mara steps inside her house and shuts the front door, breaking the spell for the rest of the neighborhood. For her, though, it is just beginning. She kicks off flip flops, peels off lilting clothes, and as she climbs the stairs to the bathroom, she plucks bobby pins from the bun looming at the crown of her head. One by one the pins drop, their succession of clinking upon the tile a makeshift metronome for the emerging song:

Como el agua clara
que baja del monte,
así quiero verte
de día y de noche.*

She turns on the shower and slips behind the curtain. Under a hot cloud, the stream of black hair joins forces with the one falling from above. The waves reach downwards and press against her frame, coaxing out louder and lower vocals. She closes her eyes.

Ay como el agua,
ay como el agua,
ay como el agua.

While he was alive, no one could belt this one out like Papi. Except for Don Camarón de la Isla, of course. There was a time when, in their home, Saturdays were reserved for paying homage to this god of Nuevo Flamenco. His entire discography would go for a spin on the turntable, with Dad accompanying at full throttle. “Como el agua” always came last, as a culmination of their marathon of cante jondo (how fitting that it was called deep song!).

Once he had translated the verses for her. Today she tries it out in English, too:

Just like the clear water
that comes down the mountain
I want to see you
day and night

Oh like the water,
oh like the water,
oh like the water.

She is pleased to find that the swap of tongues hasn’t hindered the flow of the tune. She savors Dad’s willful baritone rising in her lungs and flooding the air, paying this world a much-needed visit once again.


*I invite you to listen to the song by Camarón de la Isla featured in this story:

 

Haircut

trenzas

A cape rises and falls,
suspending the hustle in a diaphanous sigh.

Limbo has grown vast around your heads,
Mother,
Brother,
Sons.

I dive to the bottom of its keratinous depths.
To your roots.
They are a budding Braille that speaks only of you,
pressing vital being through my fingers,
leading me in orbit around your opulent skulls.

It is time to return the favor.

Shears open and close in rotation
so as to untether you from all ends.
Only beginnings remain-
for the time being.