Totem

Sepia-toned image of several white flowers in a vase.

My grandmother shows me how to speak—

how to lilt my tongue and round my palate,

grinding a language I long for into nixtamal

 

wood ash and seashell

into bloomed gold,

death into life—

 

so that I may take it in,

taste our communion

and learn what she means when she says

 

Mija, we are magic.

 

In dreams, she whispers

a story about my aunt,

a tiny, wailing thing

 

pink as a rosebud

and clutched to her breast

as she knelt among the rows of cotton.

 

Bristled fingers claw out,

draw sweet

baby’s blood on the bolls,

 

and my grandmother hurriedly plucks

each tuft like a peach pit

from the mouth of the stem.

 

In dreams, I see her face in black coffee—

bend my ear to take in her low murmuring

that rises on the steam.