Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
~This story previously appeared in Inkwell (2010).
~Selected by Kenneth A. Fleming, Assistant Editor
After the funeral, Abuela tells Marcela and Valentina to sort through their mother's belongings in the living room, which they do, wordlessly and tensely, each putting aside trinkets until they spy something both of them want: a pair of jeans their mother liked to wear out dancing.
"I remember seeing her in them," Marcela says. "I don't know when that was."
"Too small for you," Valentina says. "Perfect for me. Besides, you don't dance in the United States. Remember Tia Mercedes' Independence Day party in Miami?—all her fat gringo husband's fat relatives, sitting around in plastic chairs like at a meeting, drunk and boring."
Marcela can only stare, affronted and helpless. Honestly, she does not miss her mother, but she would rather not be condescended to by her younger, half-sister. And, inexplicably, she desperately wants these jeans with the swirls of glitter on the back pockets.
Valentina slings the jeans over her shoulder and puts aside other objects: a purse, a silver tube of lipstick, plastic hair clips.
Marcela sits on the couch. "They won't fit you either," she says. "Our mother was tiny."
"I'll show you tiny," Valentina says. She strips down to her cotton underwear and tube socks, then pulls on their mother's jeans with visible effort. She has to leave the top button undone. "You see? Perfect fit!"
"You think you should have everything you want."
Valentina flops next to Marcela on the couch and scrunches uncomfortably close, her breath hot on Marcela's neck. "And you are one cool cucumber," she whispers in unsteady English. "One smooth operator."
Marcela almost laughs, but Valentina pokes her arm and hisses. "I deserve these jeans because I lived with our mother for the entire fourteen years I've been alive. I had to identify her dead body. What have you had to do?"
She has had to move back and forth between this world and her own, that's what. She is the one their mother left behind in Boston. But Marcela doesn't say this, because no, she did not have to identify their mother's body, crushed by metal from her car and from the rock of a washed-out road. Marcela can't imagine what that was like and is afraid to ask. Valentina turns on the television and begins to flip through the channels mindlessly.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
~This poem was previously published in Connecticut Review (2009).
Leaving in a Beechcraft
Still night, the tarmac dawn.
The propeller drone begins to slant me
up from the dark ground,
where I was a daughter again,
and the urge to flee rushed back to me.
My mother told me not to wear pearls before evening
and reproved my pronunciation of the word cupola.
Corrections are entrenched in her memory,
and yet she confused her mastectomy
with her childhood appendectomy,
and I was adolescently
sullen—all over again.
Now, lifting on through the dark into the cloud cover—
with that black emptiness outside the window—
the plane moves slowly, heavily, noisily, diagonally,
and finally it breaks into space, where,
Orange sun, you seem to be expecting me.