Famlia (r) History

Abuela told me stories of stories

in thick accented English

about ancestral oral prophets

explaining the one two–

step of Aztec blood rumor.

Native American familial lines

somehow delineated

along the Rio Grande’s true,

but imaginary boundary.

Forced into place by colony,

by imperial force,

into the maw of history books

that are no longer produced.

Our histories–the same

and we could hear it from each others

mouths, if we knew what it was to listen.

Abuela told stories of dead grandfathers

who whispered to their gardens

in language the plants only know. The old men,

speaking that now muscle reflex foreign tongue. And

turning the face of the flowers like the sun.

I’ve crossed the river line between America and Mexico.

Between ancestral land and ancestral land. Between

one story line and another. Stories

which collided turning the earth red

with our collective iron.

And each tale mumbling

across the rumble of the Earth.

Abuela told me these things–that once

a story could tell me how to be

who we were. And that story could

nestle me into the long line

of our struggles

that only waits for listeners.

These voices echo en  mis suenos

repeating  messages I can’t recall when I wake.

I dare say the story of my life is yours.

Given by hands once touched by soil,

whispering to me of another world,

not flashed in nostalgia, but in fact

of its once being. The fact that

our ancestors fought on all sides

of all wars. In the simplicity

of wanting them

to stop.

In that simplicity

of the Earth

baring all

our known lives.

Abuela taught me to tell

you, that the story of life runs

like the Earth’s crust faulted

into place. That speakers should be storytellers

who’ve  not forget their turn to speak

their turns

to listen.

My story–a world of splintered families

with insignia’s emblazed on the left of their chests—a raised

fist-a fist holding a camera, a pen, a carrot. Uncountable flags

–rainbow–red pink–red

black– red gold– ever known emblem


as a rallying cry.

How my family didn’t tell you.

That there is silence in the din of raised

voices, that the voices raised

when they listened.

How every line

of conversation can’t lead back to someone

etched with a same symbol.

How that was how your people died.

Also from the knife, the spear, the bullet and bomb. We died under eachothers

hands in the sun. We died against walls, backs against oceans. In the midst of one

revolution or the next.

Uncles and fathers, Abuela’s and sisters,


of many people

the freedom fighters

of many people

muddied the river banks with blood

and filled them with tears. We died daring to believe

that we could overcome this. This enemy creating frozen histories into facts. History

given to erase story.

My grandmothers and grandfathers all dead.  Their lives not.  Their legacies not,

their stories not. Let me tell you,

that all they wanted was food for me, shelter for me

and the respect we all deserve. And let me tell you

they dared the same for you.

And I take that, and give you this,

my arms locked around yours. A night

where all friends sat around me. The police,

with their spotlights emblazing us as their enemies.

Speaking Spanish I told my family that we were

all together, that we were all lovers, and that there was

nothing that was fear.  That short lived world

torn down in the glow of their fluorescents.

I have the blood of my mothers and fathers in me, the iron of the earth

in my veins. And all it is to live I have learned from you, all it is to live

we can teach each other. That past that drove my people into other people,

that drove your life into mine has passed. And whatever it is to heal

must come, but tomorrow can’t be today.  Tomorrow can’t be now.

I dare to believe in you. As my ancestors believe in me, as their

countless hands cup my life with theirs. I am not here alone.

I am never alone, and neither are you.

We shared our lives in the momentary sun of Liberty

our friends bled into concrete.



My Abuela never saw New York. She would tell me

that cities where places where families

fell apart. Where one persons

possessions became the place

where their hearts died. She’d

say to remember, that family

is where all truth lies. Where love

resides, that no prison cell, no

bullet, or blade. No baton

can take your story from you.

But that you must always

take the time to give it. That

you must always take the time

to hears someone’s life

come from their words

and imbed itself in you.

And as your language

changes, as the world changes through

the meeting of so many stories, and tales,

the myths of our past, as they all  meet

and embrace in the moments given to

another we can learn what it is for a family to survive.

We can learn what it is to be family.


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