From Natalia Treviño’s book “Lavando La Dirty Laundry”
For my Grandmother who wanted to play
Summer 1931, you stood by the door ’Uelita,
only eleven, beads of sweat under your tight black curls
You hid behind the door
had run to your first lesson in piano, your heels
pressed to the threshold. The aunt, esa tía,
the mean one, a step, not blood, was your teacher
and you could hear her sister from the other side of the door:
To that one? Le vas a dar classes a esa largona?
To that dummy?
You turned and ran home, crushing dirt clumps
beneath your shoes, the black patent dulled in the dust.
You never touched
a piano, or a music lesson after that.
They never asked you or your mother
where you went. Why you missed.
Ramiro could sing. Your older, handsome brother.
Operas, they thought. And the aunts and the teachers
came. Free lessons for his voice,
His rounded notes. Took photos for his trip,
¡Para irse a Hollywood¡ Ese Ramiro! ¡Tan guapo!
And then tissue that should not grow behind his brain.
And there was no money. You tell me your mother climbed
the steps del palacio to beg the governor, her gold-gray
hair pulled back tight, for respect.
Dressed in her long black skirt, like buena gente.
Had never begged in her life. Made that clear,
but he can sing, por favor;
Es mi hijo.
And the governor sent his own doctor,
paid for the boy who could sing
for free surgeries, books, and more lessons
for his voice. You say Ramiro
knew what day he would die—
had read there would be blue fingers
in the books a doctor gave him. And he called out
from his bed, Ya estan negras, Mama! Black!
Days before, he’d chased you down the bus routes
in cold rain.
You had been sneaking bus rides
to see your secret boyfriend, Buelito.
Ramiro was right. That was the day
it happened, the day fingers turned black.
Now, ’Uelita, in your translucent sleep,
you pee sometimes, sing, or dream.
Your little sister wakes you with a song
and I see your face again as you whisper
in tune with her. You keep
Ramiro’s photo for Hollywood hanging
on your melon-painted wall,
a head shot.
This selection comes from Natalia Trevino’s book Lavando La Dirty Laundry, available from Mongrel Empire Press! Find more details about the book here!
Born in Mexico City and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Natalia Treviño was raised in Spanish by her parents while Bert and Ernie gave her English lessons on the side. Natalia is an Associate Professor of English at Northwest Vista College and a member of the Macondo Foundation, a writer’s workshop aimed at encouraging non-violent social change. She graduated from UTSA’s graduate English and The University of Nebraska’s MFA in Creative Writing programs. Her poetry has won the Alfredo Moral de Cisneros Award for Emerging Writers from Sandra Cisneros, the Wendy Barker Creative Writing Award, the 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and the San Antonio Artists Foundation Literary Award. Natalia’s fiction has appeared in Curbstone Press’s Mirrors Beneath the Earth and The Platte Valley Review. Nonfiction essays are included in the Wising Up Anthologies, Shifting Balance Sheets: Women’s Stories of Naturalized Citizens and Complex Allegiances: Constellations of Immigration. She is currently finishing her novel, La Cruzada. Often working the community programs to increase young adult literacy, she has taught classes at women’s and children’s shelters as well as teen detention centers. Having experienced a bi-national and bicultural life, she hopes to raise understanding between people divided by arbitrary borders. She lives with her husband, Stewart and son, Stuart just outside of San Antonio, Texas.
Darren C. Demaree is the author of three poetry collections, As We Refer to Our Bodies (2013, 8th House), Temporary Champions (2014, Main Street Rag), and Not For Art For Prayer (2015, 8th House). He is the recipient of three Pushcart Prize nominations and a Best of the Net nomination. He is also a founding editor of Ovenbird Poetry and AltOhio. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.
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