September 25, 2020

Yaccaira Salvatierra

BIRDLANDS: POSTALES

Querida América: 

I am so happy to be back in México, 
in my hometown: Atotonilco. 
I missed the short narrow streets; 
children—in their ironed uniforms—
walking to and from school throughout the day,
innocence and laughter trailing behind them 
like hair ribbons. I missed being greeted by people 
in my town’s open market, 
or the bantering between taxi men 
waiting in front of the church. 
I missed the food stands around the zocalo
where families gathered and young couples kissed 
coyishly on park benches— 
and it was nothing like this in San José,
but I miss you now, América. How are you? 

 

Querida América: 

I still remember that first week inside of your home 
in California while our husbands were out 
building houses in Walnut Creek.  
We stood in front of the living room window, 
peeked through the aluminum blinds 
like two hovering hummingbirds.  
Remember how San José was enveloped 
in a scorching heat: brown balded mountains, 
streets like incandescent vacuums, 
children staying indoors 
and the silence? 

 

Querida América: 

I am still haunted by your words like spirits 
peeling their shadows off of floors and walls of homes, 
shadows roaming rooms, spreading themselves 
wide enough to darken the day:
Those streets will haunt you, 
you said. 
Those streets will haunt you at night,
you said as you walked. 
Those streets will haunt you at night, cause hallucinations,
you said as you walked away.
Those streets will haunt you at night, cause hallucinations if you stare, 
you said as you walked away into the kitchen. 
Those streets will haunt you at night, cause hallucinations if you stare
into them too often, you said as you walked away into the night.  

 

Querida América: 

You never complained about the trailer you lived in, 
or your husband renting out rooms to his workers. 
You never complained, cooking for them while you were alone 
most of the day in a city full of people you did not know. 
You never complained that your husband worked late hours, 
or how weeks would pass, not knowing what day it was,
alone in a city you did not know, raising two babies.
América, when I reunited with my husband 
who rented a room in your house, your company 
filled me, but I was miserable. 
What I mean to say is: I’m sorry 
I left. How is San José treating you? 

 

Querida América: 

I can still hear you recite Alejandra Pizarnik’s poem:
Del abismo que arroja al aire 
esta última flor 
trepo como la araña que soy 
frágil y rencorosa deseando tocar alguna luz
que endurezca mí corazón. 
It was as if you were growing another organ in your body.
You were in the shower, and that poem 
echoed from within the bathroom walls. I convinced myself 
you were consoling yourself about something I did not understand,
like a moth at night continuously hitting itself against a windowpane, 
trying to reach an indoor light. I asked you about it, 
and all you said was you would let hours pass by reciting it 
if you could. 

Te confîo, querida, I think I, too, am growing another organ.

 

Querida América: 

You and your children were my family 
during those two years. I wanted a child of my own 
and became excited when my belly began to swell 
with small movements like poppies opening gently 
with the day, but after my son was born, 
I became resentful of life in California, 
which is why I returned to México with my newborn son, 
my husband staying behind to work; leaving you behind. 

 

Querida América: 

Here, in México, I speak of you often.  
Truly, how are you? I have not heard from you, 
and I worry you are becoming empty and mute 
like those narrow streets lined with trailer homes 
in San José where people stay inside as if curfewed 
or caged. If this postcard reaches you, 
write back soon, 
tell me about your children, 
poems you are reading, 
you.

from Rattle #68, Summer 2020

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Yaccaira Salvatierra: “May the words that come first through dreams, be of those before me—of the women before me.”

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