4 Poems by Karla Cordero

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


& 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.



For Petra

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        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

Photo of Karla Cordero

Photo of Karla Cordero

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).