I WATCH ALL THE DROUGHT LIVING THINGS THE DESERT CARRIES
& swallow a waterfall made for hands to hold. how blessed
to know swollen flesh. to be nourished by a captured current.
& this body’s civilization prospers. they say: irrigate
the throat & a garden blossoms. & i remember petra. how
she once traveled through tumbleweed. from mexico to a
land that promised her heavy pockets. she’d refuge under
cacti & lick clean the tops of shade-covered stones. prayed
for angry clouds & on the third day the sky offered her pieces
of the pacific. & a woman’s hands become a canteen. her lips
the edge of a glass holding another cup of breath. & in all its
pouring a vision of children who’d carry her name. how this
body carries blood of those thirsty. forced to uproot a mouth
& learn how to grow a tongue without the taste of a past. her
mouth is a village that welcomes the overdue flood.
disregards a noah-kind-of- savior & outside this village of a
body her children float on top of a river. skip rocks the size
of black beetles & tell stories of how their mother was made
of dust. how the same dust grew into an endless storm.
the day petra left i begged the sun not to rise
but it did. clear as day the laurel leaves snap
beneath her feet the language that spoke loudest.
she held a grocery bag. her good huaraches.
a rosary. phone numbers to el rancho. she tells me,
take this scarf hold it around your neck & remember:
the mountains. the earthworms. wet corn husk.
the stories my children exist in. i’ll be right there
by the bridge tasting sunset. don’t forget:
my fingers in your drying hair. rolling dough.
clay pots. the smell of zote. translates te amo.
the taxi the color of spoiled milk spills over the driveway
& dissolves her body into distance. to el otro lado.
& tonight the rain drums against the roof top.
autumn is here. & i know it’s your hands that keep me warm.
petra arrived by bus
& a north star’s pointed finger
& before that by fake papeles
& a smuggled plane ride
& before that by mud covered knees
with a bouquet of blue flowers buried in her thighs
& before that from Nyarit from el rancho the womb to five children
now she’s momma’s backbone
my first secret
my scraped elbow curandera
my swap meet chingona
my caldo bruja
my brown heart hermana
my understanding del otro lado
my otro lado
TO UNDERSTAND BORDER
to understand border is to witness your home shrink
the size of a tangerine be forced to split it with a machete
& surrender a slice
to a man who will harvest the meat gnaw the pulp
grind apa’s laboring muscle ama’s fideo de pollo
a flock of cilantro stuck in his teeth bittered by the salt
in our blood guitar bones corazones de stone goat heads
& i am here: a floating moth
moon eyed braiding back memoires by the tattered-rind
the spit-seeds left by those who take without asking
but we too will burst back an orchard knotting
our bare feet rooted to the land where we belong
Karla Cordero is a descendant of the Chichimeca tribe from northern Mexico, a Chicana poet, educator, and activist, raised along the borderlands of Calexico, CA. She is a Pushcart nominee and has been offered fellowships from VONA, Macondo, and The Loft Literary Center. She is the editor of SpitJournal, an online literary review for poetry and social justice. Her work has appeared and forthcoming in The Boiler Journal, ANMLY, The Cosmonauts Avenue, Tinderbox, Word Riot, Poetry International, and The Acentos Review, among other anthologies and publications. Karla’s chapbook, Grasshoppers Before Gods (2016) was published by Dancing Girl Press and her first book is to be published by NOT A CULT. Publishing (Fall 2018).