Cathexis Northwest Press
My mother is on the phone...; For Guadalupe
My mother is on the phone, the moon is pulling her towards itself
There is a place where the ancestors who once were converge with the kin who could not be, where they spend their days together weaving histories. To visit here requires a memory of the future, something like: my mother was standing in a mist near the blue house, she was older, white water was lapping onto white sand. Her many tendrils will uncoil and spread out here, she will regrow, there will be no more pain.
You are bound to stumble and call this place “Texas,” but the violence of this word will split your tongue. You may attempt to utter the word “gulf” and find that it lives in your throat, more of a choke than a word.
You will think, my mother is walking away from her retirement plan. You will wonder, is painlessness simply death?
But before that thought can truly fester, here comes the whirring of the AC. There’s a whitehead on your lip. Maybe you should shower.
You warp the mouth of my wolf tattoo into a grin that enlarges each month. When I look down, I receive its expression as a message from you, sent from your sac beneath a tapestry of inked flesh. Each night, I repeat this to you: “I will not make you an orphan in your mother’s home.
”Sometimes I think of the purple stretch marks as your veins, and have nightmares of them unfluring until I lose you.
I regret that I am already keeping secrets from you. When you first formed in my belly, a hard lump, I mistook you for a tumor. I went to the doctor prepared for the worst; assuming that all the soreness, dizziness and nausea represented the onset of my early death. He pressed his rubber-gloved hands into my pain, and I winced when he reached the left side of my stomach. It could be your kidney, he said, a pelvic infection, a pregnancy.
And afterward, to my surprise, I learned of you. I am humbled by the impossibility of you. I vow never to doubt you again, and mothers must always keep their promises.
I’ll admit that I always feared having a child, because I didn't want them to inherit my bad skin, or to or to contract the sickness of anger that I worry is compressed deep inside myself, hidden in the part that only you can see. You are perfect to me, but you are still a stranger. I fear how well you already know me.
It will be a long time before you’ll be able to see my humanity. I’m not sure exactly when children begin to see their parents as mortal, if they ever do at all. For the rest of my life, I will be attempting to tell you truths, and before I am gone I can only hope that you will accept them.
Here is the first— I, too, know what it is like to live in a place with parts that have been forgotten, destroyed, in need of rebuilding.
Cortez is a writer and MFA candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at Stony Brook University. Their work centers familial, racial and queer lineage and the connection between trauma and chronic illness. They have previously been featured in Polyester Magazine, i-d Magazine, Autostraddle and 12th Street Journal. They appear in the anthology "Behind Shut Eyes" which is available for purchase through GenderFail Press. They can be found @veganchorizo on Instagram.
"My mother is on the phone: In this poem, I’m recalling a conversation with my mom in which she shared some of her plans post-retirement. I often envision a place where the past, present and future all collapse into one another when I write, most of it is mined from my dreams. I felt that I visited this place as I was speaking
to her. I couldn’t see her physicality, but I was picturing her presence, and peace was just washing over her.
For Guadalupe: I wrote this poem a couple years ago for my undergraduate thesis. It was one of my first attempts to explore generational trauma in my writing, and I was thinking about the pain I might pass along should I ever have a biological child. I chose to convey this through a fictive “immaculate conception.” I’m drawn to employing catholic motifs in my work. I find there is no better way to capture both beauty and pain than to allude to a brutal, colonizing force whose aesthetic is completely grand and striking.."