My mom reconstructed our lives from junk.
Unbleached cardboard Orisha beaded masks,
Glass-shard mosaics of proud Mary’s face,
A twisted crown of bottle caps and barbed wire,
Found relics, littered our tar-paper house,
Each objet d’art, a fetish, meant to stave
The shame of being poor. We ate, each night,
On painted plates of resurrecting suns.
She formed so much what others tossed away.
Now I scrounge through virtu and bric-a-brac,
The scattered trifles of remembrances,
To find her, traceless, gone. My soul sets bare.
Unfit to curate memory, I house
No rags, no cracked cups, no heart, fit for pawn.
The re-racked tops, bottoms, frocks beggared us.
Remember, bodies, once, possessed this cloth,
My mom reminisced. When we took the bus
Past bodegas, the hot-press mill, the swath
of storefront churches, tarpapered shotguns,
A land of corrupting rust, engorged moth,
To purchase, for the next fall, clothes the nuns
Found fitting, we, too, made out like a thief
At night. She dressed me like the rich man’s sons,
And gave herself, yet attained no relief,
Cried out, “Come, Jesus!,” where, then, was the Lord?
Without memory, one can have no grief.
Now, she is dead. My loss, my pain, I hoard
Indulgence even beggars can afford.
Streetlights reflected off the mist-wet grass.
Like stars, each blade shimmered, as if the sky
Fell, a tapestry, braided with cut glass,
Beneath our feet, silver stich, verdant dye.
“Imagine,” I said, as we lay, our hands
Interlaced, arms twined, backs damp, closed eyes dry,
“I wove heaven, pulled each weft taut through strands
Of warp, and set it here, for you to rest,
As I hold you tight.” Then you slept. My plans,
Faded like the dew, your head on my chest,
I prayed, silently, so I would not wake
You, you, who kept my words of love, be blessed.
Then night was done. Our day began to break
On us, with dry voice, blurred eye, marrow ache.
We’d walk the rails and search for beads of glass—
Jade, amber, puce, lapis— frosted and rough.
You told me they were the tears of trains shed
For passing all the sadness of the world.
Who knew sadness fit in a palm? At home,
In bed, we held those hardened tears to light
And saw, in each, the loss, the pain, the death,
Heard the engines heave, the whistles lament.
I’ve kept one, tucked in my chest, where I save
Those few things I love. On sleepless midnights,
Eyes closed, I roll, like a relic, that stone
Across my cheek, as if it were your touch
Set to calm my blind fear. But you are gone.
I cannot cry. My tears, too, have grown cold.
There are these moments in my life when I feel like I can stop time, but time is a fickle thing
that doesn’t stop for anyone and I realized this the day I got a call from my mom telling me
my grandma had seven days to live but she died in three at three in the morning and I wonder
how three could be a lucky number if it left death in its wake, waking me up in the middle of the night
with nightmares of a frightening, old woman who imitated the gentle, caring nature of my grandma
and I read back now and think that half the things I’ve written are cliche and the other half too sad
so I toss them out to write about a cafe where the cold air isn’t really leaking in, but
leaking out because…
the condensation creeps along the windows so slowly, no one notices, until you look up and see
how the once red glow of the sign across the street has faded to a pink and this color blurs with
the black night, so dark you can barely distinguish the road or the frosted cars that drive along it,
but hot tea with steamed milk wards off the chill that slips in your soul and the well-lit cafe that
you think should be warm, but your tea is no longer steaming and there must be a leak
somewhere that allows winter to seep back in and you wonder, how easily it sneaks into you and
your heart and body and thoughts and you tense, when you realize, that cold has always been
I slip both arms into my past like a coat soaked
from the inside with something that isn’t water,
a thing viscous as blood or sap so that the
stickiness makes me a sleepwalker with nothing
to lose, and with nothing I step out into the
white on white light under Baudelaire’s injured
moon—heaving the injured air—trying to trace
a river with my feet who are ever-busy chasing
that river which sometimes is trees and
sometimes is sand and is ever-heavy-laden with
mirage; heavy like the coat over my back as it
drips down my somnambulant spine, down my
limping legs, leaving a puddle: the brackish
reflecting pool of was and is that turns my
waking eyes downward—now I see what has
come off me mingling with the earthdust to
make something so new it sings.