Sunday, September 04, 2011

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arnoldo garcía

When words die.

My grandmother suffers a stroke
and the natural world receives a mortal blow.
The healer, la curandera, dies.
With her,
the plants that spoke through her hands
the plants that allowed us to ingest them
the plants that healed stomachs, bee stings,
fevers, rashes, upset emotions, made
conversations flow deep into the evenings
preceded by prayers and riddled
with laughter, healthy gossip, insights
the plants that illuminated stars and nights
died with her.
In the season that was to be winter for
my skin and autumn for my eyes.

Abuelita's nature, la naturaleza humana,
the crowbar of her tongue
prying open the language of leaves, roots, seeds
germinating words that rub, soothe, relax

Dirt under her fingernails
her palms smooth as her face
where leaves, roots, seeds rest
before ingestion,
before toasting them
on a griddle the size of her lungs,
her heart a molcajete firme

What lies behind my eyes?

Fields, horizons, hands,
humans rocking gently back and forth,
silhouettes harvesting the future

My grandmother kneeling between
two rows of green beans
then suffering a heart attack

Behind my eyes
the sing of a frog
the whirlwind
a Yakama ancestor in our migrant camp
the broken horse of loneliness
who eats grass from my hand

I spend nights
ironing towels
until they are untouchably hot
and press them up against
my grandmother's breasts
her angina has flared up
and the heated towels ease the pain
and this is her final remedy
before getting up to make tortillas
and beans for tacos that we'll eat in eight hours for lunch
which she'll wrap in wax-paper

Everyone is at work
the harvest season
spares no time
spares no one

She is in pain (because she told me)
She cringes and leans left as if someone
has just punched her breast
and screeches out a syllable of hurt.
She leans up against the table
where there is a stack of testales
ready to be unrolled into tortillas
She momentarily rubs her left arm
and under her breast
with the right hand she quickly
pulls and flips the three tortillas
that are cooking on the comal...

She will die working in the fields.
We bury her as the harvest season is close to ending
Her casket is rained upon.
We celebrate, eat food, make music, laughter, families.
Tomorrow we return to work without her.


With her, mint, chile verde, pipian, enchiladas, jardines, rosas, lirios, unknown plants, their leaves and seeds, aceite de víbora de cascabel, her hands that coerced fevers and pain out of our bodies with gentle massages, her daily rituals, foodmaking, working in her gardens after work, loving her grandchildren, speaking with her sons and daughters every day and night. Her prayers and praying, her daily visits with neighbors, her footprints in the fields, her hands on the vegetables.

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