born of a forest nest, against a wall I rest:

Amalia Mayita MendezCasa La Mercedes, El Salvador (photograph)


Necessity has the face of a dog, your mother says.
This is el pan de cada día and patience is a blessed wafer, dry
on your tongue. Holy cards of awestruck saints with palms upraised
and you, tableside, eyes rolling like marbles over polished mahogany.
Slip off your rubber chancleta, raise it high, shush and cht cht cht,
tongue hard against teeth, the housemaid’s prayer shoo’ed away.
Distance is measured in lines, not circles. You must sweep
from the farthest corner, across the expanse of white tile, pulling
crumbs, dust and dead insects to a central pile. The broom cannot touch
your feet or you’ll never marry. Your mother warned with a nod
and you swear by it. The broom behind the doorway
to ward off unwanted visitors. These are the small truths
you’re certain of, the way you know storms
from the east mean business, the belt-lash of lightning
and that western thunderheads will only jeer and smolder, roll
over the mountains sideglancing like a spurned street dog, chucho
callejero who knows to take the raised, white-soles of shoes seriously,
the rock-in-hand. Broomstick plays the guitar’s strum and sweep,
your mother called you Cielito Lindo, ay ay ay ay, canta y no llores
and touched your face, the distance between beautymark and mole,
no word for the perfect circle, ese lunar que tienes, Cielito
Lindo, junto a la boca. You’ve swept a little mound on the white tiles now,
a single hillock rising from a plain, your mother’s dirt-floor rancho,
those Mayan temples choked with malahierba and matapalo,
relics dug up and ransacked decades before your birth.


Alexandra Lytton Regalado