From Natalia Treviño’s book “Lavando La Dirty Laundry”
In the hot light of your kitchen, ’Uelita, you show me how to
press the thick dough against your popping, aluminum table.
Your hands the size of the tortillas to come, willing the mass to
open as a soft disk. My hands too small to maneuver, to stretch
over it, to pull the dry powder in. I was fifteen and knew you
were happy. Years after ‘Buelito had died, you were a new kind of
woman. Certain eyes. Laughing, traveling, playing cards. Able to
wake and say no, to skip the simmering heat of guisados and
flame-burnt tortillas by the main noon meal. Bake a cake instead,
at night. Crochet and smoke at the same time. Speak up around
the men. Accept a small glass of beer. The dough as cool as your
hands, your red fingernails disappear into the ball. Would you
remarry? I ask. You are quick to answer. Yes, it is ugly to live
alone. Your fingers have memorized this motion, the bend of this
mass. All I can think is how wives in Mexico flail in sick waters, in
tired, wakeful oceans, choppy white crests salting their faces,
silenced and gasping by the slap of spray. Romantic novella
endings are kneaded into the eyes and ears of their daughters,
spiteful neighborhood chisme, the sealing orders from men, sons,
brothers, husbands. The time folds on your face, ’Uelita, the veins
rise on the back of your hands. Portraits in your living room,
bridal framed faces, faint as shells at the end of a flat beach,
stripped of color by the brine of dry sunlight, waiting for the tide
to soak them, turn them, or swallow them. Bone pushing out the
skin at the back of your neck, you bend to your yes it is ugly to
live alone. And we press our tortilla skins to the heat, their faces
down, to cook.
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.