Para Mamita Juana, Papita Pablo, y Padrino Reden
Alma lost an eye when her house collapsed under ash.
Milo severed his thumb por una bomba.
Juana married John in Las Vegas.
Ernesto washed dishes in Hollywood until his skin cracked
while impaled children lined El Mozote.
I eat pan con café de palo for breakfast while David Bowie sings labyrinths
to the tune of leather.
Whisper to me the difference between stars in the sky and stars in the pond.
My father was a paratrooper for the Salvadoran army.
In every drop, he left morsels of himself in the ground.
Guerillas invaded my mother’s house in Ilobasco and took her father.
She has nightmares, loud and strange.
Every day, I try to work harder than the day before.
Yet I wonder, Where did Mamita prefer to cry?
When the storms hit El Salvador, cover your head:
It rains mangoes.
I was one when my grandmother discovered my palate for dirt;
I swallowed handfuls of volcanic soil
until, half dead, I vomited parasites bursting with life in Los Angeles.
I like the smell of eucalyptus after it rains.
My father worked as a head chef in Studio City,
where he met his hero, Chuck Norris. My mother
sewed in the Fashion District, needle through thumb,
until one day she swore never to sew again.
Severed heads were on display during Easter waiting for names.
Tortilleras passed with baskets of fish on their heads.
Since I was ten, I’d pray my mother’s nightmares end.
If the whistle of El Zipitillo sounds near, then he is far;
if it sounds far, then he is near. He eats ashes.
I like to wear riding boots during winter solstice,
kicking pebbles and lifeless leaves. I step out
in a houndstooth coat and red lipstick that smells of honey.
Then I cup my soil-smeared hands to my nose and inhale.
In each breath, I savor wet earth.
When the sky is black, only lightning gives us hope,
but what we need is compassion
because it is I, one of the living,
who must refrain from devouring the earth
hoping to reach the dead.