(for my mother)
You taught me language.
how to pronounce my heritage without giving a piece of myself to apology
how to read myself out of my surroundings
how to find grace in something as vulgar as racism and a poor neighborhood
in the south side of San Antonio
you taught me to canvas the public library
like I had some serious business to conduct between the shelves
when my second grade class took a field trip
across the street
to the Cortez
I was the only one who knew her way around
the smallest library in town
I can't count
the number of overdue books we somehow managed to never pay fees for.
we could always afford a drive to a library we'd never been to.
it's the only institution I still believe in.
every section of a city has a building full of books
somewhere near you
there's a grey treasure house disguised as a broken heart
with a blood type that doesn't discriminate
it’s got matches that will start you
and so many stories
it'll make your hands shake
all you have to do is find it
I know love lives in a library
searching the spines for places to sprout
coloring her name into jackets and quiet
and pencils with no erasers
because she doesn't make mistakes
she looks just like my mother
picking my first books
and fixing my mouth around new words and worlds
mis antepasados, my ancestors, fought
for freedoms like this.
my mother became the first poem to change me.
when there was no money for new clothes
my mother loved me in paperback
in the image of my father
in the elasticity of phenomenal
I stand on her shoulders and reach the dreams she couldn't.
though she has little patience and a temper to rival a Texas summer
she didn’t allow me to embrace mediocre.
she read to me
often enough for me to see in words
what I saw in her
Her encouragement wore me like a Christmas tree
when people say that I shine
I know she’s the spark.
the strongest parts of my testimony
can trace themselves to her teaching me the difference
For the woman who found magic in the form of a library,
every time I enter one I am home
because you are with me
in the footsteps between impossible and still standing, ever reaching
ever beaming through the aisles of volumes that raised my volume
spoke my silence when I’d swallowed my tongue
and patched stanzas into my speech patterns
so I’d know how to thank you properly
I have become a woman who writes poetry
I believe in my words and therefore myself because of this.
I love our family
up out of that neighborhood
out of the coupons
robberies, migrant work, borders between colors and Spanglish from the blood of a black girl with bronze skin, silver syllables and a lineage worth all the gold in Mexico
every time I read or write in the language of hard working, hell-raising honesty.
Mom, you sound and stand like the signature of strength
and I am in awe
of the cursive you’ve left in my palms.