long ago you awoke
on the golden corn husk
matete that you called your bed;
curled on the dirt floor
inside that callous stick house.
How did you feel at night?
Surrounded by the nightmares of childhood:
ruined dreams silenced by a bottle of tequila
hunger that churned fear
in your belly and in your mind,
like the phantom of la llorona.
How did you survive
the taunting by your own cousins?
the humiliation you felt
as you walked
to the broken schoolroom with peeling blue paint,
wearing nothing on your feet
but the scarred callouses of poverty?
When did you decide that you needed to escape?
Was it as you hid under the verdant canopy
of the mamey tree during lunch,
watching the group of teenage girls
like the pregnant Diana Hernandez,
dressed in colorful embroidered dresses, who never
envisioned a life outside that village of Oxumba?
Or was it when you returned to that stick house
that you could not call a home?
Your parents already in a drunken haze,
bottles of tequila at their sides,
even though the sun of Huitzilopochtl
had yet to reach its zenith.
When you set out for la Cuidad,
is fear what drove you?
The terror of spending your life trapped
with a husband who gathered wood on the back
of a broken-down mule, day after day,
only to spend what little cash he earned
losing himself in that strong drink of agave,
And come home to turn your face the color of ripe plums.
If you had stayed,
you, like so many village women,
would rise at dusk to make the breakfast tortillas
and tend to the seven children;
spend the day picking herbs and gathering hongos
to be bartered on the corner of that dirt street
next to Don Narcisso’s old carneceria
where no car had ever traveled.
Mother, you escaped
from that cycle of drink and pain,
from the mountain village with no future,
to the land of opportunity that was whispered about
among the youth who dreamed of being set free
from the eternal burdens of work and hunger.
You tell me your story
as you scrub the rose-tiled floor
of the kitchen in our little blue house,
the scent of rice and spicy chile as
they cook on the stove;
You tell me to study, study hard
so that I may continue that path which you began
the day that you left that tired mountain village.