Fragments from a Seasonally Depressed Immigrant Daughter
Cecilia, or the One Where The Ocean Between Us Disappears So Suddenly
The painted face on the moon is my mother’s.
I whistle as I walk with my hands in my pockets —
a sweet cumbia she taught me, once.
I walk past our church and then the butcher’s.
The chickens that hang by their feet in the window
sing to me. And I watch her tug
at the rise and ebb of the sea
with the same rounded touch she used to braid my hair; swelling that stubborn tide again, again, again, then enveloping
the chapped earth in the distended darkness
of her womb.
We share a freckle on our left cheekbone, the proof that she was here, and even as the moon wanes she
gives herself to that romantic solitude,
illuminating lovers in canoes and giving me
my shadow in the night for good company.
The painted face on the moon is my mother’s, with
the upturned eyes that sound like a low-lying rumble of thunder in the lazy summer,
waiting, waiting, but
her lips always smiling or weeping,
The Birth of Venus, c. 1486
The morning I saw God pour out
of my veins — the open window,
the smell of honeysuckle
tangled up the walls
of the old house —
an accident, I’m sorry.
Remember how my blood
didn’t run the same after,
sweet vines of numbness
reaching up my bones.
My mother’s weary fingers
knotted in my hair — the smell of
honeysuckle, the open window —
learning the peculiarity
sorry, I’m sorry.
The blood on the kitchen floor,
streaming outwards. Settling.
The red bus groans to a stop:
corner of Juan veintitrés
sweat and skin
from leather seats, trace
te amo puto
on the window.
Outside, the drunken bastards in broken
on the streets —
but listen. Their language
is still mine
I scraped my knees
running when I was fifteen;
the Spanish girl,
listen. Open that box,
take that flag and wrap it
around your thin shoulders,
sleep with those jungled dreams
on your back.
When mamá found the ocean
the first time, crying —
something so big, she said.
I taste the saltwater
in every dance.
Maria Guillén’s parents moved to the United States in the spring of 1992; she was born in 1998 and grew up hiding in wheat fields and melancholy books. Twenty-one years later, she lives in Missoula, Montana, where she can be found shivering and crawling tooth and nail through winter.