Abuela en Las Estrellas
“Ven aqui, nieto mio,” my grandfather said as he pushed back
his worn Stetson, dust colored and weathered like the rutted
road leading to our small farm 10 miles south of Taos.
The night lights from Santa Fe were a haze on the horizon,
past mesquite and sagebrush. Above us the sky was midnight dark.
He placed his arm around my shoulder, caressing, and pointed
skyward with a gnarled finger. “Mi padre said that Dios created
stars by holding fire in his hand and blowing springtime gusts,
so embers sparkled el cielo. The embers light our life’s path.”
Then tracing routes from one star to another, my abuelo said,
“See that star in the southeast? It’s Cetus, the sea monster.
That’s where our family began, when I and mi hermano Roberto
left the coast of Veracruz con six pesos and a tattered bag of cornmeal
sealed in plantain peels. We trod like pack animals through Mexico,
through the Chihuahuan Desert, through saguaro thorns and dry gulch
bones to find Estados Unidos, crossing the border at El Paso, knee deep
in the Rio. Follow my finger, mijo” as he inched up toward Aries
then Perseus, mapping the route as if the sky was parchment and he the
calligrapher. “Tu madre, her family came to Taos from picking apples in
Kansas City, cutting hay near Wichita, then working the meat plants in Dodge City,
migrating southwest with the seasons.” He touched Lacerta the lizard star and
tracked his hand downward toward Cassiopeia to Aunga, “as if they rode
the charioteer’s celestial wagon. What drew us like gravity, like solar
magnetism was your abuela, mi encantadora. She was the Estrella del Norte,
the north star on my journey, already living in Taos, waiting for her life
to flare, my life to flame,” he said, his hand gripping my shoulder, his breath
misting in the night’s cooling air. “There,” he said, leaning his head against mine,
stretching his hand higher, so that his frayed chambray work shirt fell below his
knobbed wrist, his voice quavering like the heaven’s music, “there she is, our abuelita,
glowing in the night, the center of our universe, we her swirling constellation.
Her luz illumines our retinas.
We breathe her starlight.”
Sofia Perdido arrived August 17
to a land green with promise.
words unfamiliar fell upon her
as suffocating leaves sodden black.
Skies corn blue as her Guatemalan flag glared.
Sunlight grew shadows.
transplanted in a new world
Each day before dawn
To escape her husband’s fists his knuckles stropped sharp by her bones
Maria Olvidado reached for the sea
Each day the sea’s undertow stared
Each day before he rose
Exhausted from ministering his liquor-stewed justice
She asked the sea for answers
Each day the sea’s undertow glared
Each day before returning to husband Hector
She cleansed in the sand sunrise bruised
She appeased in the sea’s mist
Each day the sea’s undertow looked seaward
Each day before the next day
Maria sailed a note in Hector’s nightly bottle to fathom
The sea’s destiny on a distant beach
Each day the sea’s undertow invited