For Natalia

When I held her a decade and some ago,

she was a world of blood, a slight sack with

wide eyes and a hungry mouth. Small succubus.

Demanding. Angry. Yet Beloved, so beloved.

My mother, my father, my sister, we all traveled

three time zones to hold her, to see her, this new

alien creature, made from old world stories, plane

rides, suffering and luck. She was our first,

the first girl, the first to be grown from here,

not a weed or a stolen vine, not planted from

elsewhere, but rooted, here in this soil. She was

not piece-mealed or half-made. She was not

hidden in a sweater, carried across dry dirt

at night. This land of misery and promises

would claim her. She was of it. We held our

wonder, imagined the land that would hold

us all now to her. No need for paper, documents

of our naturalized tongues. No more aching

for ground and memory. She would be the new

world. We all saw our new planet in her small

blue eyes, curly hair. We did not want to see

any accents or sadness. She would be the door,

she would be the gate, she would be the whole

to our brokenness. This is how the muting

continues. We contort. We twist ourselves.

We aspire to quiet spaces in-between cracks.

Now she looks for her face in the black and white

pictures in my mother’s shoebox. What am I

who am I, she demands. She rages against

the emptiness of boot-straps and hidden shames.

Oh, we try to tell her something of our deep deep

past and sorrow. What the Pacific smells like,

the way to hold her tongue to roll an r. How

to eat cebolla y tomate. How to claim more than

this dirt. But we are ghosts. We have given up

the flesh. We are like ghouls after the war.

And she has no patience for quiet immigrants.

M. Soledad Caballero is Professor of English at Allegheny College. Her scholarly work focuses on British Romanticism, travel writing, post-colonial literatures, WGSS, and interdisciplinarity. She is a 2017 CantoMundo fellow, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a New Poet's Prize, has been a finalist for the Missouri Review's Jeffry E. Smith poetry prize, the Mississippi Review's annual editor's prize and a finalist for the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award sponsored by the Poetry Society of America. Her work has appeared in The Missouri Review, The Mississippi Review, The Iron Horse Literary Review, Memorius, The Crab Orchard Review, Anomaly, and other venues.

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