“Si tú mueres primero, yo te prometo,
te escribire la historia de nuestro amor...
-Benito de Jesus "Nuestro Juramento"
I believed the act of cremation
softened bones to dust.
I never imagined the person
whose job it is to pound
what heat doesn't dissolve.
I needed to believe
that what the body endures
in life ends with death.
But I know there are laws
to protect the dead, rituals
by candlelight to guide
I prepare to fight for my lover's body
keep it from being drained, hollowed,
filled with sick-smelling liquid.
I flinch at the thought of his bones
smashed and scattered to ash.
But at least I can write our story.
Unlike my tio, his place unmarked,
no stone cradles his name.
Not even a document. "Asi
lo queria," my tias remind me.
"He just wanted to be with his mama."
My tias who carried Tio Ramon's ashes
cupped in their hands
to spill inside a hole
dug up at the foot of our nana's grave
by the boy who cared for him last.
Ramon didn't want anyone
to walk by and point,
know his real age.
Each year, over copas de coñac,
he'd declare his age reduced,
so that by the time he died
he was younger
than his younger sister.
is of the first man he loved.
One nobody in my family
wants to remember.
What of his story written within
marrow? Who will read what love
dejo caer onto their skin?
The pact between them
sin tinta sangre unspoken
became a joke. His story strung
to laughter is retold and retold
not as a song
but a chisme.
Your mother unhooked our framed collage
from a wall in your bedroom where rented
movies--titles peering--are scattered next
to books stacked. Hand painted strips of cloth
mark pages you read last. Your laptop mute
battery drained, sits sealed shut. Your latest
project, jewelry tangled and discarded, crushed
onto crosses, waits for your return. Less than
six years ago, the three of us-- you, me and Letty,
worked on the collage your mother passes on.
We sat around your table gathering pictures
from the previous ten years. Among them, included
the man who occupied four years trailed by two,
gutted by guilt. Ready to end my self-inflicted
punishment, I released his pictures
and his letters including the one he
left on the refrigerator before he left,
where he wrote "no one will love you
the way you are the way I did". Something
I prayed to be true. Letty sliced him from
the pictures only I remained, year after year
a single image you and Letty surrounded.
You burned his letters within cinderblock
stacked in your backyard. Smoke tangled
itself into the factory's dim light that slipped
over your fence. You held your camera up
to capture smoke and light weaving into each
other. Before it engulfed you completely.
Copyright 2010, Carolina Monsiváis
Carolina Monsiváis is a recipient of the Premio PoesiaTejana for her book, "Somewhere Between Houston and El Paso," and a winner of the Nuestra Voz for her collection "Elisa's Hunger"(Mouthfeel Press, 2010). Her work has been anthologized in "Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry", "Literary El Paso", and "U.S. Latino Literature Today". The author lives and teaches in El Paso, Texas.