labor makes her so:


Amalia Mayita MendezLean In, Sister, El Salvador (photograph)


Whipping across the half-moon Gulf of Fonseca,
I cling to your father’s back as we round the peninsula,
brightly colored fishing boats strewn across the beach.
Tijereta gulls skim the tin roofs like sad ghosts,
men spearfish along the rocks, cast nets in the shallows,
and a woman in a frilly apron props a naked child on her hip.
Scrolling hills, shirred banks of cloud, we enter the estuary—
the mangroves’ sequin-leaves glazed with light, seedpods dangle
like Christmas decorations, a white ibis stands sentinel
on the fingertip of a dried branch.


I have left you, my infant son, asleep in a hammock,
hoping you’ll grant me time enough to visit the nesting grounds.
This familiar landscape the outstretched wings
of the Jesus bird, anhinga drying in the sun.
Here, the four-eyed fish slaps across the brackish water
as the great blue heron spears through the canopy.


Yesterday, when we saw the roseate spoonbills
winging across the sky in formation, it was enough
just to look at them, not to compare them to anything,
enough to say we saw them as we were sitting hip deep
in the warm water, the tide was going down, the moon
rising in the east, and that we never saw them again.


How I once wrote: my happiness
is tantamount to the flight of birds—
and as I race through the estuary with your father
my lips thread Hail Marys, the flock descends
and ascends in spirals, and my breasts weep milk
for you; the birds sky-pinned, coordinates of ecstasy,
I cross the open ocean, the wind glides over my skin—
to the shore, our house, your face
red and furious with hunger.


Alexandra Lytton Regalado