I taste flowers by stepping on them,
Flor de Maga on my breath.
I speak hurricane and palm frond,
take in laundry to scrub and hang
like ghosts on a line—
men and women walking, bodiless,
through the tropical night.
On the day a needle pierces my palm,
sharp in the folds of washing,
emerald beaked birds cry
Boriqua, boriqua quien quien quien?
The broken needle’s course is tracked
as it rivers upstream—
marked each morning
at the clinic with an x-ray.
against my bones.
Length of arm. Bend of shoulder.
The twin wings of my breath.
While I wait for death,
birds sing their questions to me.
I embroider red buds on the rumors
my daughter will wear
as rain tattoos the tin roof to sleep.
I whisper to the tiny bundle
buried beneath a bougainvillea crown,
hurry to light a candle
before the relics of Mother Cabrini.
Her blue gaze a veil
when I press against the light.
The city fills with the umbra of gray
birds rising, their wing beats
a shadowy corona above me.
My son lived long enough
to announce his sister.
In the nighttime rain,
our faces are sequined
by lights and luminous ground.
When I ask my grandmother to tell me stories about her mother and grandmother, she sometimes tells me about her grandmother Epiphania Vega, a Puerto Rican washerwoman who was indeed pierced by a needle stuck into the dress she was washing. According to my grandmother, the needle entered Epiphania's hand and traveled through her bloodstream, apparently tracked by x rays as it moved towards a vital organ and killed her. My poems sticks to these details, but also explores the ways in which memory and inheritance are fluid, shifting to fill whatever container—or generation—happens to be holding them. In the end, the speaker is not Eufemia, but whatever it is we hold in common across time and space.