Blessed Fruit & Other Origin Mythswas a finalist for Yes YesBooks’s chapbook poetry prize and will be published in the fall of 2016. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Notre Dame Review, Callaloo, Puerto Del Sol, Poet Lore and Beltway Quarterly. A National Poetry Slam Champion, CantoMundo Fellow and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop, she holds a BA in Performing Arts from George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland.
For the Poet Who Told Me Rats Aren’t Noble Enough For a Poem
Because you are not the admired nightingale.
Because you are not the noble doe.
Because you are not the blackbird,
picturesque ermine, armadillo, or bat.
They’ve been written, and I don’t know their song
the way I know your scuttling between walls.
The scent of your collapsed corpse bloating
beneath floorboards. Your frantic squeals
as you wrestle your own fur from glue traps.
Because in July of ’97, you birthed a legion
on 109th, swarmed from behind dumpsters,
made our street infamous for something
other than crack. We nicknamed you “Cat-
killer,” raced with you through open hydrants,
screeched like you when Siete blasted
aluminum bat into your brethren’s skull—
the sound: slapped down dominoes. You reigned
that summer, Rat; knocked down the viejo’s Heinekens,
your screech erupting with the cry of Capicu!
And even when they sent exterminators,
set flame to garbage, half dead, and on fire, you pushed on.
Because you may be inelegant, simple,
a mammal bottom-feeder, always fucking famished,
little ugly thing that feasts on what crumbs fall
from the corner of our mouths, but you live
uncuddled, uncoddled, can’t be bought at Petco
and fed to fat snakes because you’re not the maze-rat
of labs: pale, pretty-eyed, trained.
You raise yourself sharp fanged, clawed, scarred, patched dark—
because of this alone they should love you.
So, when they tell you to crawl home,
take your gutter, your dirt coat, your underbelly
that scrapes against street, concrete, squeak and filth this page, Rat.
Originally published in Crab Creek Review
The living room is haloed Mary, wooden crosses, psalms
the glass-wrapped candles: tall, thick
burn, mingle with incense Alleluia
I sit on the sofa with the neighbor’s girls
adorned in flouncy Sunday dresses & piety
this day is reserved for prayer circles & the women
thumb rosary ropes through calloused fingers
the neighbor’s girls bow their heads, murmur underneath their breath
blessed are you…the fruit
I close my eyes & holding a couch cushion on top of my lap
press thumb to self fervently, moan along
is this prayer
When the circle comes to a close, Mami pulls me to her
catches a whiff of my hand—Jesus, did you bathe today, girl? Go wash, girl
& I know this is a hidden thing, wash away thing, pray it out thing
Nightly, when everyone in my house is asleep, watch me roll onto belly,
my fingers find me unbidden, with bitten tongue
I train myself quiet
I have a knowing about this unstopped need does God watch
stop, slow down, speed up, circle, press & pray, & press & pray,
press & suppress & pray blessed are you the fruit
My mother calls and sandbag sighs
into another of her lists:
She found Papi shivering inside
a bottle of spiced rum. Again.
My grandparent’s bills are loose napkins
that won’t origami into pretty swans.
My brother won’t drink the milk anymore—
he knows about the medicine.
There is a timer on these calls
but the bread always burns in her irises.
I put the match out on her throat.
When I was little, she never cried
where I could see her;
hung rosaries from her eyelashes instead.
I convinced myself then silence was strength.
I won’t feed from her fingers.
I fold into two walls. Hide from her hands.
Peel my ear when she reminds me
daughters are meant to veil themselves behind the skirts
of their mothers. When are you going to visit?
I don’t tell her this is why I left.
You know, I know…it’s easier to be far from this.
We both heave wordless.
She whistles softly through her teeth
and I am packed with the air of her.
Blessed Fruit and Other Origin Myths (Yes Yes Books, 2016)
Locked Horn Press Prize