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.