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Abra Gist

05 Nov Abra Gist

THE WAY, FROM OVER THERE

 

 

Nican mopohua
Aqui se narra
Here it is told

You get the idea.

This Full Moon resonates with ancestral spirits
Those ghosts of past generations,
Who watch silently over our lives,
May be heard tonight…
WHIS PER ING
wisdom and guidance.

But I wonder,
Why do they suddenly have so
much guidance from beyond?
Why is it they never
shared this wisdom while here?

Do they bring stories?
Do they carry songs?
Do they deliver curas or curses?

My hairs stand at attention
on the back of my neck and shoulders
Tiny little antennae ready to receive.

I sit and let smudge sticks linger – waiting for a sign.

Do I listen?
Do I write?
Do I speak?
Do I dance?
Do I sing?

In the spaces where their hearts used to beat like drums,
where my heart used to beat,
beating away
pounding like thunder over and over:

I (thud) AM (thud)
I (thud) AM (thud)
I (thud) AM (thud)
I (thud) AM (thud)

I wonder if I (thud) AM (thud).
And if I ever Was
And if I will ever Be.

Nican mopohua
Aqui se narra
Here it is told

 

 

GENUS AND SPECIES

 

 

THEY were first generation “Americans”, in a “country” that popped up over a century or two centuries or three centuries ago, even though they were here first, before the clergymen/ conquistadors/ colonists came to claim.

 

I was my mother’s mother, in another world, at another time, she was MY daughter. While I don’t know if I am my great great grandmother, I know I forced my way into this world.

 

The root “gen” is in generation which means birth or kind. Birth as in beginning and kind as in species or type, but nothing like the word kindness. There is no kindness in civilization or colonialization.

 

HE left us. HE became a doctor. HE probably prescribed pills like RU-486, maybe it was a different time, maybe women had a right to choose, but now a woman’s choice is starting to become a secret – again. Women, like land, are not allowed sovereignty.

 

I AM third generation even though some of my ancestors were the first to cultivate this land. The first of their kind to offer kindness to their oppressors. We are still not welcome.

 

I sat with two Shamans/Curanderas/Medicine Women, one was here in the states, one was “over there” in Mexico. One gave me a snail’s shell, the other wrapped my hair in snake skin. I looked up the symbolism – one is primordial, a symbol of time and transition and eternity. The other is rebirth and transformation and immortality and healing.

 

I wasn’t supposed to happen. Even after I WAS, she was convinced by her doctor to try another method or option. She was young and alone and I understand this in a way most people don’t or ever will. But I stuck around.

 

SHE was second generation a flimsy bridge built between the worlds. English names were given, languages were forbidden, hair was chopped and pulled back – tightly. Assimilation was key to civilization. When she could, my mother hid the fact she was Mexican from everyone, even me.

 

My teacher sent me outside on the wooden walkway that lead to her gray portable when I learned about genocide, the beginning of the end. She made sure to send out the textbook – epigenetic traumas and guilt on every single page. I silently sobbed one tear after the other, my tiny chest bobbing up and down over and over.

 

When someone said she looked like Gloria Estefan and then Selma Hayek and later Penelope Cruz, she was finally proud to be Hispanic or Mexican or Latina. I was finally proud to be me when someone said I looked like my mom.

 

I colonized my mother’s uterus. Once she realized I was here to stay, even though HE didn’t want me. SHE kept me and she said I saved HER. Maybe the same way “missionaries” saved the “savages”?

 

TOTAL HISPANIC is an important figure on the US Census – it calculates “All Hispanics in the population, regardless of race. This category cannot be derived from any of the other categories, but it can be subtracted from TOTAL to get the total number of non-Hispanics.”

 

Everyone else around me wore a lonestar badge of pride. I was ashamed – ashamed of all of my people, of all of my kind because I am all of them. Just like you. Did you win anything? Did anyone really win anything?

 

Never say you’re Mexican, never say Indio, say we’re Spanish. They hear Spanish and they think “close enough to white”.

 

In 2010, the united states showed up at my door and told me I had to make choices and be accounted for. He was a census worker – Hispanic too, he was just doing his job. He was darker than me and he laughed when I chose Hispanic – American Indian & Alaska Native.

 

Censere in Latin means “to tax” or “assess”. A CENSUS was taken by the Romans to assess tax potential.

 

History is told by the victors, the visitors, the invaders. There were losers there were winners. The first census after the American Revolution was taken in 1790, under Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. There have been 22 federal censuses since. You know you can pass for white – right?

 

 

 

 

COAX COATLICUE

 

 

The feathered Serpent Goddess, Coatlicue
visited me once on the mountain.
Until that day, I thought I was just another
chicana – or a gringa to mi familia
Raised north of the border…three generations
removed from mi tierra madre.
Three shades lighter than mi gente
Which means you don’t fit in
on either side.

She crept into my dreams tres veces
On the hillside while “they”
gently rocked my hamaca
back and forth and I fell into a peaceful sleep.
I didn’t remember the dream, just the laughing.
The giggles of hijos or espíritus or
the serpent?

I never found out who “they” were
but at breakfast the next day,
a meager meal of frijoles negros, avena con leche,
y pan quesadilla y café
covered the table and the topic of conversation was
me and mis suenos.

“¿Te visitaron?”
Did they visit you?

No les dije nada.
I told them nothing.

La otra vez en mi sueno,
Coatlicue slithered off the mountain just
before I realized she was the mountain.
Coiled up, layer upon layer, vertebrae upon vertebrae.
Her eyes glowing like lava and
watching me all the way until she
was behind the mirror in the room I was borrowing
for the week. She watched me sleeping
her split tongue tickling the glass.

Her words did not come to me in English, or Spanish,
but an indigenous language I
once heard my Abuelo reciting at a funeral.

My serpentine messenger reminded
and then prophesized
first in Nahuatl
then switched to Spanish
when she saw I could not understand:
Un buen presagio o un mal presagio.
In a past life, in a half life, I’d had two lovers:
One who was honorable and true
and one who had killed me.

“¿Cuál encontré en esta vida?”
Which one did I meet in this life?

Her tongue shot like a dagger towards my forehead
and everything went black.
And just like that I was in
another sueno.

Sweat collected at my temples and made
its way down into my ears and I thought I could hear
the ocean. An ocean beating upon a black sanded beach,
black with volcanic ash and hot to the touch,
because it was just birthed that very morning.

My tanned beige skin laid on this new progeny
Coatlicue had called into being.
Floating inches above my stomach
she recited her blessings over me
as her scales and feathers fell around me
her claws peeling my skin to reveal a new layer.
Her chants were inaudible
medicinal ancestral frequencies.

She pulled out my heart and showed me
where it had been fractured. Lodged inside
was a tiny golden egg.

Camachaloa!
Instinctively, I opened my mouth.
Her claws shoved the egg in, and I felt it
Slide down my throat
burning like fire
burning like that beach
burning like a flame had finally been lit inside me.

Cuica Cuicani!
Cuica Cuicani!
At her command,
I sang and
I slithered and
I opened my
wings and flew into the sky
Never to return.

Mochihua: to happen
Mochihua: to become
Mochihua: to turn into
Mochipa: always and forever

 

 


 

Abra Gist is an emerging writer working in the Houston area. These poems come from a collection called ‘Amatl’, which is the Nahuatl word for ‘Paper’.

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