How do I tell you that you are beautiful?
How do I tell you that it’s not your fault?
That when I left your house I was plenty strong enough.
That you are a good mother,
that the world hasn’t been as cruel to me as you think.
How do I make you understand that I am sick beyond chicken soup?
That when I cannot breathe it is not because you are smothering me.
That when I cry it is not because we are poor.
You watch me in a state we call sleep but it isn’t,
that’s where demons are fought.
You pray over me to make sure I wake up the next morning.
You wrestle with the echoes of past lives
Of the little girl you carried
Of the little girl you taught to read
Of the little girl standing tall.
You think to yourself, “I have failed her.”
The woman who returned was not
the one who left.
Your silent anger,
In the looks toward the North
when things are mentioned
your jaw clenches.
Your fingers stuff themselves into fists
under tables, behind backs.
“Esa vieja mal nacida,” you start.
You change the subject.
You cannot fight off the bullies any more than
I can fight the urge to kill myself.
These are the bullies you cannot see.
The ones you cannot punch.
The ones you cannot chingar la madre.
These are the bullies you hoped wouldn’t come for me.
Yet, they are here, in your house, on the couch, sipping cafe con leche.
But that doesn’t stop you from lighting a candle
Making me soup. Watching me sleep.
Mama, you are beautiful. It is not your fault. I am sick.
But I promise, tonight, I won’t kill myself if you hold my hand while I sleep.