Madre is first, is a gift. Mother
ties you to before.
My girl Mami arrived to this country
speaking a different tenor. Shaped me
out of tropical salt before she braved
the white sand & a cold shore.
Hija de su.
Hija de su madre.
A curse without a bad
word. A hallowed charge without instruction.
Girl Mami didn’t know what to do
with a baby, how to adult & mother
for the first time. She tied me to before,
in knots, put me out to float but forgot
to leave the monster ashore.
Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant
Girl Mami’s love was a net
that failed to hold me.
She released me to the elements bundled,
but left me bare in the harsh weather of home.
I dreamt a family that wouldn’t try to drown me
& pretend it the norm. I bore beings bearing prophetic
names of completion & volcanic spirit.
They burrowed under my breath, reluctant
to leave. Small hands in the currents.
After you grow a being in the water of your body,
you never stop reaching for them.
The family that bore me was danger, so I
summoned elders & sisters for a new compass.
When the monster grew a new head,
Because fathers falter, I knew to gather council.
Yo, la madre, can break the cycle, be first
to decide love means screaming aloud
danger has become the wallpaper.
Yo, la madre, can listen to advice, lock
him out or get ready to have him back inside.
Yo, la madre can craft a tale that sings
Brown boys whole, that imagines how
they can grow into Brown men
that can do more than tread water.
Leticia Hernández-Linares is a poet, interdisciplinary artist, and educator. She is the author of Mucha Muchacha, Too Much Girl, and co-editor of The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States (Tía Chucha Press). Widely published, her work appears in LatiNext, Other Musics, Latinas: Struggles & Protests, Maestrapeace, Huizache, and Pilgrimage. She is a four-time San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist grantee and a long time cultural worker and Mission resident. She teaches in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. Visit her: joinleticia.com
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