(There’s no need to start with dear
When Mami is the same thing to me.)
I read a poem in Literature one day
That made me tense, a deer ready to run
Because it cut me
Right down to my soul
Peeled back layers of me
To leave a gaping chasm that dribbled
Stardust and the blackened pulpy remains
of bitter leaves, the kind you boil for medicine.
All of it spilling through my fingers
As I tried to seal myself up.
The poem was “Those Winter Sundays”
By Robert Hayden, about son and father,
(oh. I thought. Mami, you of all people
know how it is with father.)
A house of chronic angers,
Sacrifice ignored, and a void
(no, not the angry throbbing darkness
of hatred that swallows all)
(merely a creeping chill- the absence of love)
I was to write that poem a twin.
That night, you asked what I was working on
My hands darted out to shield those piercing words
Made from that dark essence, scattered with light,
That I’d tried to keep within me, not so long ago.
I ignored your protests, heart firmly hidden
Until you went away, once more
On your own celestial course
With my truths unseen.
I know you, and how you think.
It’s about our family, you thought.
No, Mami, I didn’t write about a silly broken trifle
Held together by Scotch tape,
Or a cracked phone screen, a T.V punched to pieces,
Nothing about our own house of chronic angers.
I wrote about you.
Of the evenings after working two jobs
Where you shake grogginess
Off your limbs and make blue fire blaze
To drive the hunger out of our stomachs.
I wrote of warmth, the golden light of our kitchen,
Of quiet love.
“How could you know, how could you know?”
I ask the reader
For these things are all ours alone.
Maybe someday you’ll read it.
If you do, I wouldn’t ask that
Because, Mami, all this,
You already know of.