Ana

I know Ana too well. We are like sisters, now. We each know when the other is lying.

Sometimes I can’t digest my lunch I the same room with her because in her silence, she is saying to me, you don’t think I know what you did and in my silence she knows I am lying. I have to go lie on the bed in front of the fan.

We’re all we have, as if we were born with the same last names, but I sometimes sit outside at night so I won’t hear her screaming at me as she quietly watches tv.

-Estás enojada conmigo?- I ask her.
-Ni quiera Dios,- she says to me. -No.-

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El Arcoiris / Para mi Ahijada

Ama como si te estuvieras ahogando
y siempre primero
a ti misma. Piérdete, y no
tengas miedo; cada día
hay un nuevo sol.
Saborea todo.
No esperes nada.
Mírate al espejo para no
olvidar.
Camina con la cabeza en alto.
Baila con el pelo suelto.
Canta a todo pulmón.
Cuenta las estrellas.
Bebe del rio.
Tírate al mar.

Porque la vida
es una
las noches
son largas
el corazón es de carne
el alma es de nubes
y tú eres
el arcoiris
hoy

Suitcases

You are sitting there in the living room with your shoes on and your hat.
And the tv is off which is impossible.
And there are suitcases beside you.

You say you are leaving. That much I can see for myself.

You say you shouldn’t have come here in the first place.
You say I don’t love you.
You say you read that in my diary.

I don’t say anything.
Clearly, you have helped yourself to my words.

You say the driver will be here for you any minute and he is.
I say goodbye.

The first time you left me you snuck away like coward and I nearly died of grief and rage.
But you begged to come back.
Maybe I wanted to see you walk away like a man; watch you walk out the door with your shoes on and your hat.
Maybe I wanted to remember you as the back of a hat and two sets of white knuckles clutching your suitcases.

Gasp

(a surfing poem about drowning/not-drowning)

spinning helplessly
down below
i tuck and spin faster

is this how she dies?
dashed on a rock?
her head clobbered by
the rocketing board?
a hit just right would
knock her unconscious
she would forget to
hold her last air
suck in lungs of sea and
go limp

time stops
between heartbeats

awake in this roaring
blind night, i check:
my neck is
not broken
both arms, unharmed curl
overhead
perfect legs pulled in
protect my belly
somehow
how far down
i am not yet drowned

she is a little ball of
curled girl
in a seething sea
spinning lost somewhere
waiting for what happens

she is the planted seed
which contains the
rest of her life

far above me
the board surfaces,
finds light and sky
a solid yank to my leash leg
tells me which way is
up
to a world full of air

i open and
kick through the foam
finding the top
as the gasp
explodes

Penance

(From A Map Of The River, an unpublished short novel/prose poem)

…..

Washing clothes by hand in the pila is nothing new for me.
In Los Rios I have left behind a small white washer, but before I had it I washed in the way of our Grandmothers.
I know how to do this.
It is an important thing a woman must know.
The little girls on the block come to stare.
They have never seen a white woman wash.
They don’t suppose we know how.
They ask me “Sabe usted lavar?”
I answer them,”Sí” and still they stand in disbelief to watch.

Consuelo wet the clothes in the stone sink, sprinkled them with soap and scrubbed, deftly rolling and unrolling them against the rough surface. I watched her rinse them with scoops of fresh water from a gourd dish, then a hard wring with her muscled brown arms. She came to our house every morning to wash for Guadalupe, her four grown sons and her young boy. With her came Nanci, her five year old animal-child who grunted and screamed, scratched and stole, who learned the unintelligible speech of her mother. She is the one on whom the poor take pity because her poverty is complete.

Consuelo and her animal-daughter Nanci came to wash and I learned to understand their grunted language. The payment for Consuelo’s work were the plates of rice and beans which she and Nanci ate at midday. I watched them. They watched me. Consuelo offered to wash my clothes for small fee and I said no. She had no way of understanding my desire to learn so she thought I was stingy and mean. She watched me without pretending not to as I struggled to wash my own clothes, a clumsy imitation of her efficiency. Guadalupe’s sons watched me wash. Neighbors who stopped by watched me wash.  All of my life, people have stopped to watch me wash.  A gringa washing clothes by hand: who knew it was possible?

Later, in our rented house in Santa Cruz, before we had money to buy the small plastic washer, I washed everything by hand on Saturday mornings. Towels, bedding, the clay-encrusted work clothes of a potter went into the sink on the porch. I sweated out the penance for my sins one by one. Penance for selfishness were the shirts, penance for untruths were the stained socks to be whitened but not stretched. Penance for leaving my home and my traditions were jeans ground in the mud. Bed sheets were the penance for the iniquities of the unwed. Towels were the penance for having been born rich enough never to have hand-washed towels. When I finished, I was spent; drenched in suds and sweat, knuckles raw, wrists limp, back splitting, dizzy with exhaustion and the relief that comes only from cleaning your conscience along with your clothes.

…..