I open the old album, searching for Abuelita’s photo. The album is filled with stained yellowing pictures that smell of dust and decay. The book’s transparent

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!”” Ghosts I open the old album, searching for AbuelitaÕs photo The album is filled with stained yellowing pictures that smell of dust and decay The bookÕs transparent sleeves are flimsy and torn The adhesive paper, dried up like a parched desert Faces leap out of the worn -out pages, photographs falling like autumn leaves, dangling like loose teeth Frozen images of aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, cousins and siblings, and a few strangers too Ñsome who ar e still alive, som e who are now deceased I am searching for my grandmother, lost within this album that creaks like an old wooden door with every flip of the page I fin d the photo I am looking for Ña P olaroid Abuelita is hunched over, amidst a backdrop of colorful flowers and evergreen plants Behind her stands a tall robust hedge, its crimson leaves neatly trimmed Abuelita sits sideways on an orange plastic chair, too small for her She wears a print floral dress and matching navy -blue cardigan sweater A brown and purple pa per crown adorns her head Abuelita looks directly into the camera, her expression fill ed with wonder and surprise, patience and resignation ÒAy, muchachos malcriados,Ó I seem to hear her say in a raspy voice followed by a chuckle But in opening the album, I unknowingly release the ghosts

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#””ÒUnknowingly? Unknowingly? Hmph!Ó they scoff, yawning and stretching Unharnessed, the ghosts sway and expand, a hushed chattering among them I try to listen, very carefully Yes, I can hear them I type furiously on my keyboa rd ÒWhat are you doing?Ó they demand to know ÒA class project,Ó I say dryly With every tap of the keys The ghosts grow impatient, restless IÕll accept, I bear some responsibility Their eyes closed and arms crossed, the ghosts nod in agreement IÕll admit, i t was my idea Ñnot theirs Ñ To write the poem, create the slideshow Pry into the album, searching Pluck images from the internet, add ing words, infusing them with story The ghosts hover over my workspace, crowding my computer Like heavy rebozos, they drape a round my shoulders The ghosts frown and shake their heads, suck their teeth ÒNo, no, no, thatÕs not how the story goes,Ó they interrupt I try to listen, very carefully Yes, I can hear them And then at that very

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$””moment, as if the ghosts have telecommunicated across the state, as if I am watching an episode of The Twilight Zone A message arrives, a notification from 23 and Me ÒHi thereÉI was wondering if the name Liborio G. rings a bell? He was my grandpa. From Durango. I am trying to learn more about him. I met him once when I was seven. My grandmotherÕs name was Clemencia Q. Both are passed nowÉÓ I stare at the screen, read over the lines again and again My mouth hangs like an elongated papaya, the shape of MunchÕs scream I study every detail of my newly found cousinÕs DNA chart ÒLiborio? Yes, he was my grandfatherÕs brother,Ó I type Stories flash through my mind, stories I do not dare to share How can I write How can I explain that Liborio abducted Clemencia after she refused his advances, how he put a knife to her throat, dragged her away, forced her to submit to him against her will, how Clemencia shrieked, kicked and screamed, pleaded for clemency, how her e yes shone wild with terror in the dead of the nightÉ She was a teenager, a girl The ghosts twist and twirl, they narrow their eyes My cousin asks, ÒWho were your grandparents?Ó

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%””I look over my shoulder before I reply, ÒP⁄nfilo G. and Candelaria S.Ó Stories flash through my mind, stories I do not dare to share How can I write How can I explain that P⁄nfilo beat Candelaria, smashed a log over her head, blood oozing out of her ear, how he called her an India pata rajada, made her kiss his feet as if he were G od, slapped her with a hard calloused hand for not warming his food just right, flung their two -week baby across the room because the infant wailed too loudÉ The ghosts draw near, now hanging precariously like a tightened scarf around my neck ÒItÕs not ni ce to disturb the dead,Ó they whisper, interrupted by my relative, who chirps, ÒMaybe someday we can meet up? I live in Modesto. Where do you live?Ó ÒYeah, that would be great. I live in Watsonville,Ó I say We share a few more pleasantries and tidbits of f amily history, my cousin and I, before saying goodnight Now the ghosts rise up like blue tongues of fire Now they are ruffled and roused They shout, they argue, they bicker, they curse I mouth a prayer and ask for forgiveness, which calms them some I finis h my project, silence my computer I gather up the loose photos like piles of dry leaves I open the album, search for the empty spaces, filling in the gaps I press the photos against the bookÕs rippled pages, smooth the protective covers over my aunts and u ncles, parents and grandparents, cousins and siblings, and a few strangers too Gently, I close the album, place it back into the cardboard box inside the hallway closet

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&””Gently, I say goodbye Ñexcept to my grandma Adorned in a picture frame, Abuelita Candela ria stays close to me T™a Clemencia I display on my altar of memory I light a candle for the women, which calms them some I burn sage and copal for the men, which calms them some Black and grey plumes of smoke spiral in the air Ñcleansing, protecting, forgiving They say some things are best kept buried, best left undisturbed But I wonder if that is a grave mistake A faint rattle echoes somewhere across the hallway Then Everything grows quiet

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‘””I DonÕt Mean to Be Rude, But Refined pe ople listen to Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart We listen to banda, norteŒas, oldies, hip hop, and rap Refined people use words like ÒnoshÓ or ÒsubterfugeÓ when they speak and write Ñeven when they post on social media Refined people use phrases like Òto all and s undryÓ or Òapropos of nothingÓ when they speak and write Ñespecially when they send work emails Refined people write poems about vases and flowers, mountains and rivers We write poems about racism and struggle Ñand sometimes vases and flowers, mountains and rivers Ñbut mostly about racism and struggle Refined people send their kids to private schools, pay for piano and tennis lessons, open 529 accounts Refined people take their children on college tours, years before they graduate high school Refined people travel to places like France or England ÑEurope is so wonderful, they say They visit the Eiffel Tower, snap photos of Buckingham Palace Some go native, loosen their hair, explore the Amazon jungles of Brazil, get married in Costa Rica, and have babies name d Maya or Quetzal Refined people throw lavish dinner parties, prepare seared ahi tuna steaks, served with risotto and arugula salad dressed in raspberry vinaigrette They open expensive bottles of chardonnay, drink dirty martinis, maybe scotch on the rocks They drape cloth napkins across their laps, arrange their cutlery just right, keep their elbows away from the table, chew their meals softly Ñno slurping or smacking We eat tacos with rice and beans, have large parties overflowing with relatives: abuelitxs, mothers, fathers, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandkids, aunts, uncles, babies, neighbors, and a few stragglers We shout across the table, eat at different intervals, spill into garages and driveways because our homes are too small

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)””HereÕs my advice: The next time you eat at a taqueria, maybe you can try the habanero sauce instead of the mild green salsa Maybe you can travel to your cityÕs backyard, send your kids to public schools, step outside of your safe communities, volunteer at a homeless shelter, donat e to immigrant rights organizations, read Jamaica Kincaid Maybe you can write to your legislators, demand an end to police brutality, vote for progressive candidates, attend social justice rallies, and stop patting yourself on the back because your friend or coworker is brown or black Maybe you can hold back, bite your tongue, and let your brown and black colleagues speak for a change, maybe you can take the time to listen instead of criticizing them, thinking you already know everything, thinking youÕre al ready doing your part, so why are they always complaining? ÑI marched at a BLM rally! you say ÑIÕve been to Guatemala! you shout Maybe you can shut up for once and stop thinking youÕre so brilliant, so special, so un -tiring Maybe you can restore the murals inside the walls of your mind because You were taught to reject them, wash over them, erase them because The art was too colorful, the painted faces too dark and ugly Ñnot refined or aesthetic There used to be a mural of a large Olmec head right across the Super -Rica Taqueria Ñon the corner of Milpas and Alphonse I remember it well, walked past it every day after school, on my way home One day, the building was sold, and the new proprietor painted over the Olmec head In its place, he erected a lattice woode n panel and planted a prickly shrub with white flowers Few people remember the mural because it was effectively erased ÑThis poem is vulgar! you say ÑThis poem is ugly! you shout

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*””You love the Louvre in France You crowd around the Mona Lisa, snap dozens of photos of her ÑNow thatÕs fine art, you say, gazing lovingly at the famed, overrated painting So IÕll say it again: I donÕt mean to be rude, but Ñ YaÕll tired AF But Just remember: It doesnÕt have to be that way Ñ You donÕt have to be tired AF (unless you want to)

75 KB – 10 Pages