It’s early morning the sun is not yet up and I am awakened by the sound of mamá’s relentless
pounding. She is stacking white bottlecaps, molding them together with a homemade mixture of
dreams she’s pulverized in a volcanic lava molcajete and Tijuana green tears swallowed over the
years. Papá lines them up and tosses them back faster than mamá can keep up. Mamá made us,
babies by the dozen, hungry. She’s been building walls so high for so long we learned to jump
before we could crawl. We search for her beyond the walls and find an empty shadow dripping
sorrowful sweat as she stacks, caps on caps. Papá drinks to drown out the cries of the baby in the
barn who would have been Tio. The baby who cried in the barn for days before the crying finally
stopped. Those cries crossed the border with him, thrown over his shoulder and carried on his
back like Jesus on Good Friday. When the sound creeps in Papá drowns it down with the clank
of bottles, and sometimes the crack of a leather belt on my brother’s skin. Papá rages and flows
with bottlecap chains, Mamá builds and builds. She is electric wires, raw and exposed, unable to
be touched. Mamá builds and builds until she tires and retreats again into some silent memory in
a box in a closet in the room for which we see no entry, and from which she sees no exit.
There are things that flow
across borders and doors closed
by the dusty storm of memory:
smoke from burning trash,
entangled with the morning fog
that disperses across space and time.
The judgmental gaze
of the Jersey Milk boy,
painted on the side of the hill,
watching me with his blue eyes and fair skin,
red hair and freckles.
Cries of despair
that tumble downhill,
without vanity or grace.
The pain of dreams abandoned,
sizzling in the air like electricity,
running through open wires,
hung from wooden poles,
shanked into the ground
in a crude and hurried effect.
The prayers of an old woman
who keeps herself company
in the solitude of her
faded green memories.
Originally published in Your Impossible Voice.
Victoria Ballesteros is a writer from Los Angeles. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, her work reflects her bicultural upbringing and experiences. Victoria’s work can be found in trampset, Cutleaf Journal, Your Impossible Voice, Latine Lit, Latin@ Literatures, and ¡Pa’Lante! She is enrolled in the creative writing certificate program at UCLA extension.
Read more at www.victoriaballesteros.com