I didn’t inherit everything from my mother.
Never runner-up of Miss Aguas Buenas
danced in white go-go boots
sang background with El Gran Combo
teased onlookers with cascading, iron straight hair.
I collected metaphors and similes
like copper pennies and two dollar bills
while she created new wardrobes
out of self-drawn patterns and
bargain bin materials.
On February Sundays
her fingers crocheted
baby blankets, scarves,
matching hats and gloves
for the minus five wind chill factor.
She tried teaching me how to double stitch
but my holes were uneven
like my voice
when I told her no for the first time.
Her hands couldn’t find creative ways to discipline me.
I inherited a temper,
quick and malign.
A monthly therapist bill became my heirloom
when her depression passed down to me
like diamond earrings.
Testing my will for life twice before turning 25,
making me doubt
if she or I would ever claw our way out of its abyss.
I inherited a love for cooking tostones.
her handwriting on an index
instructing me when to turn the plantain over.
Her thin smile looks back at me
when I see teenage pictures of myself,
the slight imperfection of her nose in a profile
reminiscent of the mother who abandoned her as a child.
And when I found out I was having a daughter
I touched the soft cotton
of my pink sweater,
imagining her hair that soft.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
The blend of Newports
and wine on my breath
remind me of her
as I light my next cigarette.
Holding it the way she does,
poised and lady-like
when she holds court during
unsanctioned smoke breaks.
Curve my left eyebrow like her
when I hear bullshit pick-up lines
or excuses masked as reasons,
talk with my hands
as I spew Spanish curses at
NASCAR worthy speed.
We hold our vulnerabilities
like we hold back our tears,
with purpose and protectiveness.
Smile when we really want
the earth to swallow us whole,
enjoy the silence of solitude
(a bit too much perhaps)
dream to be a starfish
because like comic book heroes
they possess regenerative super powers.
Like the intersections of a Venn Diagram,
we share the shame of early pregnancies,
disgust for tolerated slaps to the face but
today I rewrite the plot of our lives
flicking ashes on the ground
knowing we will be them one day.
—for my revolutionaries
In my mind Don LaFontaine
narrates the beginning of every morning:
“In a world full of dentist appointments, field trips,
asses to wipe, lunches to pack, homework to sign,
one woman’s name echoes through Rocky Mountain
laundry piles of Angry Bird underoos and Hello Kitty jeans,
one woman answers to the call of mommy.”
A rainbow of communist color dresses,
Yankee caps, Converse sneakers, and
one faded “I hate people” t-shirt
proudly worn at PTA functions and children’s museums,
occupy the closet where nothing pastel or animal print is welcomed.
Morning dance breaks to the Beastie Boys are mandatory
like syrup on blueberry pancakes
with a bacon smile and whip cream eyes.
A mid-afternoon glass from my favorite bottle of wine
in a sippy cup with the words “Mommy juice. Don’t touch.”
Sound like a Dora the Explorer episode
asking for things in two different languages.
Say darn when I stub my toe
but scream motherfucker
when another parent cuts me off
at the drop off lane.
I pretend to change my name to Queen Sheeba of the Desert
plugging my ears from three voices
and their monsoon of questions.
How I wish to respond,
“No, I don’t know why ants are that small
and who cares they are ants. Forget them.
Watch me take advantage of their size with this chancla.
Darwinism at its best, mijo.”
On Columbus Day
I teach them about hubris, genocide and
respect for the property of others.
On Mother’s Day
I’m blessed to have three faces cover mine with petite kisses
but remember there should have been four.
Take them to book stores, show them
mommy’s name on a spine so they know
guidance counselors can be wrong and
how anything is possible.
On New Year’s Eve
write each of them a letter of the obstacles they conquered,
new games they mastered, colors they discovered,
the lines they stayed in, the boxes they thought out of,
new lessons they learned in and out of the classroom
like opening the door for anyone or the power of listening
especially when a grandparent speaks.
With each passing year,
in the surreal lands of Marquez and Paz
I challenge patterns etched
in the knots of our family tree,
carve new ones in the extended branches
with smiles instead of tears,
hugs instead of raised hands and voices,
break traditions of alcoholism and apathy
with Lego hammers.
At night before my brain checks off
mental to-do lists and designs a new one for the next day,
I pray they continue to inherit mommy’s humor
but not her temper, be in awe of the sunset
Luivette Resto, a mother, teacher, poet, and Wonder Woman fanatic, was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico but proudly raised in the Bronx. Her first book of poetry Unfinished Portrait was published in 2008 by Tia Chucha Press and later named a finalist for the 2009 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her second book Ascension was published in April 2013 courtesy of Tia Chucha Press. She has served as a contributing poetry editor for Kweli Journal, a CantoMundo fellow, and a member of the advisory board of Con Tinta. Some of her latest work can be read onLuna Luna Magazine, Coiled Serpent, Altadena Anthology 2015 & 2016, and a forthcoming anthology of Afro-Latino poetry published by Arte Publico Press. Currently, she lives in the Los Angeles area with her three revolutionaries.