1. Abuela’s House
Beside the old rotary phone, the Aztec warrior, in heavy Talavera ceramics,
keeps his perpetual vigil over the body of his beloved princess,
their bridal chamber a tomb. Home is where the heart is, even after
it’s stopped beating. A Sacred Heart Jesus tapestry dominates the bedroom.
In the kitchen, a gimme calendar from the panaderia is tacked
over the washing machine, day-old conchas in wax paper, a lingering scent
of onion. Tortilla dough kneaded and ready to roll out for tonight’s dinner
rests in a steel bowl. Bottles of aspirin and blood pressure medication
line the windowsill, along with the last of the season’s tomatoes.
If our family had a sacred heart, this house would be it.
2. The Butterfly Festival
Swallowtail caterpillars, black and red, nestle in our palms. Crysalis boxes filled
with pupae in various stages of emergence, leafy greens and golds and browns
spun from the silk of their own bodies, walls of shed skin, site of transubstantiation,
the changing of the whole substance, liquifying to become. Platters of fruit entice,
winged feasters pulsate gently in puddles of juice. We eat homemade ice cream
from a vendor stand. They’re here every year, as dependable as the saffron-winged
monarchs’ migration. It’s always strawberry for you and toffee for me. We lick
the drippings from our wrists. In the outdoor enclosure, a blue morpho lands
on the brim of your hat. I wonder what it’s like to live on sweetness and air,
to have every branch and sprig a suitable bed for spinning dreams.
3. Please Be Sure to Visit Our Website
My abuela’s neighbor, Jose, does odd jobs for her. In the evenings, she cooks him dinner.
They eat and watch TV together. At the end of Sabado Gigante, the announcer exhorts viewers to visit their website. Abuela turns to Jose and asks, “¿Que es ‘dot com’?”
“Es por la computadora,” he replies. She nods as if she understands, this woman
with an eighth-grade education, born before television. As far as I know, she never touched
a mouse or a keyboard. The homiest of homebodies, she couldn’t bear to be away
from her kitchen and her cats and her garden for more than a few hours. The internet,
like biochemistry or literary analysis or Nicomachean ethics, is a foreign country to her,
one she has no desire to visit. We scattered her ashes in the back yard. On my computadora,
I write poems about her, and will continue do so until I am ashes to be scattered.
4. Thank You, St. Jude
When my brother was six, he was hospitalized with a high fever.
Abuela pinned saint medals to his pillowcase.
When he got better, she took out an ad in the classifieds:
Thank you, St. Jude, for your intercession.
When Abuelo died, the prayer cards at his funeral did not invoke St. Jude,
but Christ and the 23rd Psalm. I carried that card in my wallet for years,
reassured by the idea that there will come a time
when we have no need for intercessors,
when being desperate and directionless ceases to matter.
En la casa del Señor, habitaré para siempre.
5. Flood Myths
For the first time in my life, I’d moved away from the river. So, naturally,
that’s when the flood came, the deluge overwhelming our sump pumps, all the things we lost
in soggy heaps out on the curb. We’d known this house was a fixer-upper,
but no amount of paint and wiring can resurrect some domiciles. Home isn’t a place
but a concept, an elusive state, like enlightenment or salvation. Creation began with a flood,
its waters to devastate but also to cleanse, both hell and high water,
endlessly consuming and resuming, as the caterpillar digests itself in its chrysalis
to emerge on sodden wings. I’ll never stop seeking this nowhere place, part dream,
part memory, all Zhuangzian dilemma. There, we will talk of alphas and omegas, plant zinnias and milkweed, and become ghosts simply because there’s nowhere else we’d rather be.
Lauren Scharhag (she/her) is an associate editor for GLEAM: Journal of the Cadralor, and the author of thirteen books, including Requiem for a Robot Dog (Cajun Mutt Press) and Languages, First and Last (Cyberwit Press). Her work has appeared in over 150 literary venues around the world. Recent honors include the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize and multiple Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives in Kansas City, MO. To learn more about her work, visit: www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com