“The Tale of La Llorona” by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland


I was born with one eye open
on the back of my head. It made
it easy to walk along the branches
of mango trees. Limb to limb,
finger to finger, I walked to the
house of my mother, then to my
grandmother’s. In between
I discovered the House of Vasquez,
connected to me and my sister
and my mother like the marrow
of bone. Inside the house were
secrets. An eyelash at the grave
of my mother ’s sister. A black pupil
looking from my grandmother’s
silver hair. I asked my mother,
why are the Vasquez women
born with so many eyes? And
she said she thinks it’s because
we have so many tears. When
I was pregnant, it became difficult
to wrap my bear feet around
mango tree arms. Once, a wind
blew so hard, I fell. My baby slipped
all the way down to where I open,
to where my body becomes a star.
In order to push him out, I had to cut
open my fourth eye. For the first time,
I saw whole from the back and
the front. And my God. This world
is made of nothing but estrellas.
My spine fell out of my body and
latched to the tree as my baby did
to my breast. And when I cried, the
tears came from both sides. The tears
were saltier than the ocean. I didn’t know
this at the time, but they were also sweet.

from Tales from the House of Vasquez
Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner


Raquel Vasquez Gilliland: “Nearly two years after having a nervous breakdown after the birth of my son, I started to examine this experience with poetry. Mental illness runs on my mother’s side of the family—with the Vasquez women, specifically—and in searching for the reasons why, I found stories. Some of these are from the lips of my grandmother and mother, some are ones I unearthed inexplicably, from the fertile dirt where poems grow.” (web)

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