The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Beast Meridian by Vanessa Angelica Villarreal

1 It’s February 16 Houston 1993 & the call from md anderson is a guillotine
ring 2 each word Papi says si, ándale pues, si aqui está, & so he has to break the
news the experimental treatment has failed 3 se muriÓ 4 [ ]
5 I can’t piece together any memory after except 6 when Mami & Tio Javier sat
overwhelmed & silent, reddened faces among stacks of paper smoking at the
table 7 trying to figure out how they will burn our Mamá 8 each taking turns
with the phone 9 & at this point the story is a skip in the record 10 & I must
ask you, reader for just one moment——
11 & we are in pain because our umbilical cords have grown back & root
themselves to objects of vice 12 but mine is a braid snaking out of myself 13 to
find its root in the pines 14 so when Mami begins to float above us & above the
arroz boiling in floodwater & above the half-blue tv 15 & above Tio Javier
drinking himself to death 16 & above her empty bed ever-missing my father 17
& thousands of crushed cigarettes 18 that tender umbilical cordon attaches
itself to the rotting foreclosure so that she might not drift away but
18 every solid thing becomes itself backward 19 & we crane our necks to try &
see where we are going 20 & we must have left something behind 21 what was
backward is now forward & the trees press their thrashing branches into the
glass & break in & drag me out by the hair 22 & the floodwater boils over onto
the stove top 23 & a blue crab crawls out of the pot
24 I call to someone, try to warn, but I am suspended tighter still 25 my hair
tangled up in leafy branches, toenails twisted into roots—

26 & the drawers in the room open
themselves 27 & floral skirts unfold
themselves 28 & a pair of chestnut
castanets tie themselves with curry-colored
yarn 29 & together they find your form 30
& it’s like you are here 31 are you here?
32 & the pibil & bitter orange & fabuloso
faint on the air 33 & a fork pierces the
yolk and the room swells with sun &
someone 34 is here next to me & I am
not alone 35 at the table after school
boiling ramen I dance with floating plates
36 to José José 37 who I don’t even like
but I’m only ten and couldn’t see how 38
cancered & in pain 39 the chestnut hairs
felled silent from your head 40 placed
themselves like saffron 41 into a pot of

42 The archaeology of memory is like this:
43 a column of drawers hollowing their artifacts
44 your threadboned ribs
45 form the cathedral in which I kneel
46 to mourn the violences that devastated the soaring holiness
47 of your body & I repent
48 por mi culpa por mi culpa por mi gran culpa
48 I watch the cardinals we fed that day
50 knock their flight inside the sunspilled vault
Fin & this is how I can go on, knowing you have returned home

This selection comes from the collection Beast Meridian, available from Noemi Press. Order your copy here. Our curator for December is Jessica Rae Bergamino.

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal was born in the Rio Grande Valley borderlands to formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PBS Newshour, Poor Claudia, Apogee, Waxwing, The Wanderer, Sporklet, DIAGRAM, The Feminist Wire, The Poetry Foundation Harriet Blog, and elsewhere. She has served as an editor for the Bettering American Poetry project and is a CantoMundo Fellow. Her book, Beast Meridian, is forthcoming from Noemi Press in 2017. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Poetry and Digital Media Arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she eats tacos with her family, but her forever hometown is Houston, Texas.

Jessica Rae Bergamino is the author of UNMANNED, forthcoming from Noemi Press, as well as the chapbooks The Desiring Object or Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering of Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them (Sundress Publications), The Mermaid Singing (dancing girl press), and Blue in All Things: a Ghost Story (dancing girl press). Individual poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Third Coast, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, and Southern Humanities Review. She is a doctoral student in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Utah, where she serves as Reviews Editor for Quarterly West.


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