In March


Lying in a plastic hospital cot, I curl next to Mami. Both waiting beneath a scratchy off-white hospital blanket for the kind nurse who is taking care of Abuela. He asks about her food, about the movements of her body-- natural cycles interrupted by chance and age and memory.

She is sweet, like cane sugar--Her temperament mellowed out by illness. Pain looks wrong in her face, her thin arms unable to hold her own weight for the most basic tasks.

So we are waiting for the next wake up call.

"Pone tu pierna a mi lado" says Mami. And I ask if she is comfortable. She says yes, but I realize it's not about her comfort. Rather about the need to touch another body, to feel a weight that is alive and warm and unhooked to a machine.

Three generations in one room, miles away from our birthplace. The only thing running through my mind is " ¿Where do we bury our dead?" We know the time is coming soon, but the question plagues my dreams. Where will I be interred when I cease to breathe? Beneath the soil where Abuelita buried my umbilical chord in our little house in Tegucigalpa? Beneath the community cemetery of the Illinois village we inhabit? The depths of the ocean? The sands of a desert?

Next to us, a woman moans in a terrifying cadence that sounds like both agony and ecstasy. I play Chopin's preludes and Agustin Lara to drown the sound of her slow decay and the many layers of hospital sounds.

An unbearable cacophony that sounds more like a sentence for people like us, people that don't belong in the system, undesirables.

Earlier, as she writhed in discomfort I sang to Abuelita her favorite songs. I recited verses that I didn't know I still remember from church, words that held little meaning to me but were balms to her fresh and old wounds.

I was there as an Interpreter for Mami and Abuela. To translate grandmothers pain, but truly how can you translate somebody else's language? Something that isn't experienced in words?


And I think of the people, who are out there denying the fact that we are human. That my sweet grandmother, of flesh and blood as real as theirs, does not deserve to be treated with dignity. People who are actively trying to dehumanize us will throw numbers and statistics to make us invisible. I never thought I could disappear by becoming a number-- and yet now I have that super power.  

Soft

 

 

 

Do you know what it is like to have the softness torn away from your throat?

When every other word is a small wound performed upon a breath.

 

You see a part of yourself written up in a foreign article

 

in a tangle of words that you can’t understand.

 

You hear the name of your birthplace on the news.

 

And the mouth that wraps around the name is bitter.

You hear the sharp edges in ‘violence’

and the brutal sounds in ‘corruption’ sound more like condemnation.

 

Sometimes the words come in sets,

 

like fraternal twins that have their own secret code.

‘Gang Violence’.

‘Murder Capital’.

‘Narco State’.

 

This is not your place of birth.

 

This is a mirage made of words.

With boundaries delineated by language. 

 

 

Do you know what it is like to have the softness torn away from your throat?

When the songs of your mothers are but a whistle in the breeze

 

 

In my head is a small vision,

 

 

of this mirage made of words.

It has texture and smell and sound.

It has mass, It has velocity,

it has a voice,

a favorite color,

a flower that falls asleep when I touch it with my finger

 

It never approximates objectivity

And it’s silent thus

 

I have come to learn that

For some, the boundaries are nebulous, and unremarkable

For others, boundaries have a physical manifestation,

a materiality splits their bodies in half

 

yes

I also built borders within myself.

constructed by guilt, memory and loss

 

I was born in a place where the architecture of our homes

 

Was a system of control and safety

designed to keep predators out--

with steel bars covering my childhood window

An artifact of fear

 

 

Concrete fences,

 

 

Barbed wire, and the shards of broken glass bottles

lined the boundaries that separated us from one another.

 

Within my spaces of intimacy I have delineated borders.

 

Places for safety,

Places for refuge,

Pleasure and pain.

 

I carry home inside of me, because I crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed

I had to learn to be invisible.

To teach the razors in my tongue to disappear.

 

 

Do you know what it is like to have the softness torn away from your throat?

When you can no longer remember what your soft is supposed to be like .