My mother tells a story about a child’s shirt she once saw,
ripped in the back, dotted in blood.
La Llorona stole the boy wearing it.
La Llorona, child-snatching ghost of a person.
Mama, tell me more about scary stories. How is that we can carry fear bigger than ourselves? What do we lose if we finally put the nightmares to rest?
My mother’s father used to say that folklore is how we teach our children the world.
I memorized my family’s world, but they wanted to give me a bigger one.
Still, I will always know the weepingg woman.
I will always know when a person is really just a faded version of themselves,
how to scream when a child-snatcher comes near,
how to hold a torn shirt and pass on the story of loss.
My mother’s father would say that not all loss is created equal– some is sacrifice, and sacrifice is a noble thing.
My mother’s father would say that, sometimes,
I will have to call him grandpa
and pretend to not know La Llorona’s name at all.
Mama, tell me about generations. How do I remember a world whose name I can’t pronounce when I dream in American?
Sometimes, here, we name our little boys Miguel
and call them Mikey.
We cut the eñes and doble eres from the tip of their tongue,
but their hips still speak salsa,
and their fingers still know how to talk the open flame into kissing the tortilla cooked.
You may not be able to hear this, y está bien.
There’s room for you where they gave up their tildes .
There’s room for a tortilla in your empty, growling stomach.
Mama, tell me about the fire. How do I fill myself like a tortilla when held over it? How do I feed my loves without burning up?
My mother’s name is Yolanda but some pronounce it Jolanda.
Frida Kahlo’s first name is Magdelena.
The Honduran grocer in my favorite store named her son Jesus and calls him Chuy,
but the manager calls him Jesus.
He’s a scientist like my mom.
His daughter is named Yolanda, like my mom.
The name of this poem is 2018 US Immigration Policy
but I cannot pronounce it.
I never learned how to swim in the alphabet of it.
Every time I step to it,
I’m held still by memory of struggle inherited,
Desperation, like La Llorona’s when she drowned herself and her children in the river.
I’m held hostage by her tears and this country,
and when you are held hostage:
Remind everyone that you are here, and have been.
Tell them your names, tell them your mother’s name, tell them how you first met Jesus at a grocery store.
Ask them to not be afraid.
Child-snatching ghost of a person, please don’t be afraid.
If you want, we will tell you our folklore so you can meet us where our names are still whole.
If you want, we will show you how sacrifices and ordinary loss look the same when they are generations old.
If you want, we will feed you tortillas and tell you the stories of the monsters we are running from.
Child-snatching ghost of a person, please don’t be afraid of us.
In the news today,
a child’s shirt, bloodied by the hands stealing him.
A nightmare. A loss.
New stories at 11, and I know there will be new stories.
Stories are how we teach our children.
Mama, mama, mama.
Tell me about the children.
How do we keep them in the arms of the people who love them?
A rare political poem from me! Day 5 of poems that I never really got figured out.