I awaken in this familiar darkness like I’ve smelt
this coffee-colored wind before; like the sounds of
these swallows mimic waves of submission I have memorized.
Could this be the first place my name was ever spoken?
My heart glows, signaling to me that this is holy land.
I remove my shoes and realize the dew upon
the taste-buds my bare feet stand upon have been
used to wipe morning out my eyes. This Mecca is my mother’s mouth –
Tongue stuck in-between biting teeth
like a foot in a slamming door,
enamel cracked from the car accidents
of dreams that were never shared because
they couldn’t afford the pricey toll of English proficiency.
My mother’s tongue is a coffin where
hope is buried alive and it rocks back and
forth as hope kicks and scratches fingers
down to bloody bone.
But if you were to raise your eyes to her palate
you would see the “Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo.
The Sistine Chapel hovers over this depressive scene below
like God hovers over us all, reminding us of what we are all capable of becoming.
My mother always wanted to be a painter but
in sixty-three years on this earth only completed one painting:
Copacabana beach done in oil.
It hangs in our family living-room like a mirror.
She avoids it not to see her beautiful reflection because it
only reminds her of how she pretends to be ugly every day
because that is what immigrants do – bite their tongues and
pretend to be less than what they really are for
their children like Christ did for our sins.
your silence weighs heavy on my conscious.
Those nails on your wrists and feet reek of my diplomas.
This North-American dream is making me feel like Judas –
trading in your dignity for gold coins and a 401k.
Let me speak for you before the rooster crows a third time
and you deny yourself once again in my name.
The next time they diminish your existence to
Maria “the maid” let me press my palms against
the roof of your mouth and push down on your
tongue with my feet until your jaw pries open.
Do not be afraid when you taste light in your mouth.
That tingling sensation will be the bite mark on your tongue
healing into rainbow. I will rip out my lungs and use them as
bags to collect the shattered pieces of your dreams; swallow and
scream them whole into existence.
I will vomit your resurrection.
My mother’s name is Maria Nazaré Tavares Custódio.
She was born in a village in Brasil called Bethlehem.
When she came to this country they crucified her to a broom-stick,
pierced her side with the word Spic and
quenched her thirst with Windex on a rag.
And like the Romans, you North Americans mistook
her for a peasant when in reality she is my Christ.
The Amazon River flows through her veins.
My mother is Shiva – preparing meals for our family with one hand,
using another as rainforest remedy to heal us when we are sick,
helping my father lay sheet-rock,
passing her index finger along the pages of our textbooks as we did our homework.
Her breasts have nurtured two kings
so how could you have possibly confused her for a slave!?
You are ignorant to the kingdoms she possesses inside her chest;
they are undiscovered like the fountain of youth and like
most things beautiful, your impure intentions will never allow you to find them.
My mother is Picasso that split second before he realized
he was Picasso and I am a distraught caricature in Guernica,
screaming out the words of Fernando Pessoa,
“Rule or keep quiet!”
The time for silence has passed.
It is time for us to rule.