May 18, 2016

Yaccaira Salvatierra

WHEN MIGUELITO SHOULD HAVE BEEN SLEEPING

and his tías de México and his mother gathered around
the kitchen table, stories drifting toward his room
like cafecito vapor, he leaned against his door to listen.
When he first heard about how his orphaned grandmother

was her own godmother’s criada, how she would fall asleep
while scrubbing los pinche pisos—knees and knuckles
tired and raw from scratching against the cracked
clay floor—he imagined himself standing

next to his grandmother’s child-body: limp limbs, ragged-
heavy like a drenched mop’s clothed tentacles;
he imagined himself ordering the opening of the earth,
¡Ábrete! ¡Ábrete, trágatela ahora cuando está dormida!

When he heard how his grandfather would shove a kicking
and screaming laughter into a plastic bag on those days
he left to work on foreign lands, but leave his daughters
without half a giggle because Miguelito’s grandfather

would need laughter more, he imagined himself
waiting for his grandfather’s hurried stride. He imagined
flinging himself toward the thick plastic, tearing it open
with a fork to let laughter bounce back into the bellies

of children because what are children without laughter?
When he learned how Fausto, the catechist, would lure children
into praying un “Padre nuestro” while their fathers were leaving
one by one, he wondered why his tías would say, Dios lo bendiga.

But when he first heard about his mother clubbing
the neighbor’s stray pig to death when she was a child,
he wept, but not for the pig.

from Rattle #51, Spring 2016
Tribute to Feminist Poets

[download audio]

__________

Yaccaira Salvatierra: “Because of my mother, I learned to be unapologetic as a Latina in the United States as in my parents’ countries. Por ti, madre, aprendí que las mujeres—aunque el cuerpo, la sociedad o la religión lo impida—podemos hacer lo que nos propongamos. Cuando llegaste a los Estados Unidos, no entendías ni hablabas inglés pero por necesidad trabajabas limpiando casas, cocinabas para otras familias y cuidabas niños ajenos. En tu casa siempre fuiste otra. Te propusiste aprender inglés y, años después, por deseos tuyos, fuiste trabajadora de servicio de limpieza urbana: una basurera entre puros hombres. I write poetry. I write about the string of stories attached to her and my family. Unapologetic.”