Oct/Nov 2019 Poetry Special Feature


by Graciela Barada


my mother, the linguist, is scolding me for how readily I seem to have adopted a southern californian accent after just a few years of living on the west coast. I bargain with her—I'll shed the smiling undertone of my voice and question-mark-statements when I cruise home in the winter (and occasionally when we speak on the phone). she rolls her eyes in agreement and we laugh, fully in sync with each other. for the first time in years, my mami is wildly in love and drunk with happiness.

my father, the self-made cuban refugee, is punching my phone number into the screen of a too-small iPhone 5 that he begrudgingly uses. though the line rings and rings and rings, I do not answer. what is there left to say to the man you silently hate—the man who first taught you the meaning of selflessness and broken-heartedness, of tiptoeing around your own home, of early morning car rides to soccer tournaments in virginia, and late-night drives back from flamenco practice, year after year after year? a quiet thank you, I suppose.

my brother, the ever-changing companion, is a friend to many, but seldom to himself. he is hurting and I have so few ways of holding his hand through it all. I am home for a few weeks and he immediately calls me down to his room on the second story of our crumbling townhouse, a paper home, so that we can bond over some silly video he's found online. our laughter is the symphony of our parents' greatest, most colorful
indigo daydreams.

my sister, the artist, is my fiercest and most avid supporter. she believes in me when I can muster little more than a few broken sentences and heavy tears that line our shared caramel cheeks. people often tell us we look alike, but neither of us sees the resemblance. she is my oldest friend and right now, she's asking me to hug her, to hold her, as she allows heart-wrenching grief to brew and pass through her ribs, through her spindly fingers. I oblige and she whispers an I-love-you that both brightens and quiets my entire world.

we are such a mess.


Previous Piece Next Piece