Chinga tu Madre
or (Things That Didn’t Turn Out Quite As Planned)
Because her love hurt
as that of a lioness
sinking her canines
into her cubs’ soft skulls—
devouring each one,
not out of hunger or anger
but compassion and love—
she tortured and killed
all of the men—
the wilderness budding within,
Eden blooming poisoned apple blossoms—
she didn’t want me to ripen into.
Whenever their corpses
pulled my child wrists—
diseased fingers cupping boyish upspeak—
she’d flog my soft flesh
with bare hand to redden,
reshape the human plasticine
churned from within herself
as rotting blood from an exit wound
Into someone unlike her,
something that wasn’t Dad,
somewhere distant from myself.
“A good father can’t come
from a good father,”
she used to say.
“Just as spilling an exceptional vintage on dirt
will not yield good wine grapes.”
In her mind, so much benevolence
shouldn’t be hoarded
by the few men whose fathers slept
in the same bed as their wives—
feeling remorse when they didn’t—
ate meals prepared by their work-ladened hands,
locked themselves in the bathroom
with a newspaper for hours at a time.
It never mattered if Mom loved Dad or not,
that he was glad to be or not to be the father,
or if he was disappointed that she never thought
of him as “daddy” material:
pregnancy does not birth a mother from a woman,
as having unprotected sex
spurt a father from a man.
What is a mother
if not one who nurses you
even though she hates
that your breathing reminds her
of the blood knot that binds her to him—
destroyer of lives lived and unlived—
for a lifetime divorced
of the vows they once wedded;
the one who loves you
not because you’re hers to mind
but in spite of it.
Everyone in the history of everything
won’t care enough to submerge their claws
in my flesh, and rip away until tears
roll down both our faces—
unafraid of the spatter, memories
of the woman who chose love,
but whom love never chose back—
and all that remained was a shell of her,
the ghost of him,
and the nothingness of me.
Strewn bedsheets cast a mold of your hips,
eyes dazzled by lights flicked off,
the scent of your equator
guided my famished lips
to the vast land between your breasts and navel,
filling the space behind the heart—
between my throat and spine—
with the heat of your eyes,
smoke of a wood fire
in the drizzle of summer dirt.
The inner flesh of your thighs—
curtains made of caramelized velvet—
muffled your pleasure writhings,
amplifying the underwater flutters
of my tongue swimming in your labia;
sharp and sweet as bruised ginger,
jitters that come from unwrapping a present,
licking the frosted head off a cupcake—
a smile at the back of your mouth
when you realize a single sprinkle
wedged itself in your molar
as your upper and lower teeth
jigsaw perfectly into one another.
The mattress stayed warm
as your trickles echoed in the toilet
and the strip of light under the bathroom door
awoke me from our dream.
After you washed your hands
and face, staring at the mirror
as if you’d never seen yourself in it before,
your hands twitched on the vanity
as in your piano finger exercises.
Before you entered our bed
and interlaced your hands and feet into mine asleep,
my eyes released their squint
from the time blinking red on your dresser,
throbbing shadows on the empty
cold of the strained metal springs
whose cries you hide so well
under the weight of your body.
Pacts With the Devil
The house she dreamed
and woke her up at night
wasn’t the one of her dreams—
Spanish style, Moorish tile,
on Highland Avenue
between 3rd and 6th street.
It was an old mansion
she’d first seen as a girl
with endless hallways
filled of creaks and shadows
and doors to rooms whose knobs
she dared not turn.
As I wiped away her sweat
and stroked her dirty blonde hair,
I told her about the summer—
between fourth and fifth grade—
when I couldn’t close my eyes
without hearing Satan’s clip-clop approaching my bed.
The only room she’d peeked into
huffed its door ajar,
exhaling spider ash and pig breath;
winking wax images on its cobwebbed windows
smiling as long-lost sisters
whose laughter to play
called to her like cat chirrups.
The magic of swallowing a pill
and dispelling the thoughts of keeping
it— not yet a him or a her, a fear,
a his and her fault—
wouldn’t take effect for another three hours,
so we fell asleep
and I began to dream
about the town my grandma was born,
where witchcraft was the farmers’
only access to medical care,
though the church forbade it.
Grandma’s father slashed his palm
and shook the Devil’s hand
to ensure that at least one
of his dodecatuplets survived birth:
his wife made it through,
but none of his twelve little apostles—
the midwife’s nickname for his lost children—
his blood was cursed, he died believing.
The house no one would ever inhabit
filled her mind once again
as her eyes woke up
spitting up tears, her throat full of vomit.
Her body would be a home
but not for our little Messiah,
who was crucified on porcelain
because of our thoughtless sin.
We waited for night to come
so that we could sleep again,
but rest never came,
and the house that haunted her
grew larger with more rooms,
more questions, and one more ghost.
I held her as I released
what we had made,
the truth we had to make our lie:
someone who visited our little apartment home
but couldn’t stay,
and would never leave me.
Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share. His writing has been featured in Meat for Tea, Sky Island Journal, The Esthetic Apostle, The McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the 'Best of the Net' award and the 'Pushcart Prize.'