Finding the Way Down, Louie Van Patten
Ink lights that travel acrossmountains, down through the widehighway of Veracruz, where a black vulture flew,a crunching of bones against metal. She asked meto braid, three from her crown. My fingersweaving, weaving, spells of time that drowned the city. Noiseof freeway crossings. Police machine guns in truck beds. Silent, bedroom, city birds, she was my home. Her small fist. Gentle, unfolding, unfolding fingers like wings in the city, wings that hide broken dusk vendors. When you leave home at fifteen, a floating riverboat, drunkenmachete river sounds, home is never a house, but a body: ribcage, a heart beating to sleep, below your conch shell ear.She was on the street, her skin blue, eyes painted, blackliner like mine. Is she still breathing, I asked the abuelason the corner dialing cellphones to God.
Her lips silent. Yes, they said, yes. And I went down chantingthe subway, passed Balderas. She came as a dream, smiled, her skin pale papered lilies.
Tell us about the conception of this poem.
I was thinking about the body as home. Placing my ear over someone else’s chest to sleep has felt like home. Recently, I was walking in the center of Mexico City, and there was a young woman lying on the sidewalk. Her skin was turning blue. I wanted to help, but the grandmothers shooed me away. Later that night, the woman came to me in a dream. So, when I wrote the poem, I was carrying a heavy feeling of temporality, an ever fleeting sense of home.From which of the four elements-- earth, wind, fire, water-- do you draw inspiration?
Our family astrologer once told me that I’m missing earth in my chart, so I’ve tried to connect with the earth more, to ground myself. Water has been the strongest element in my writing. I grew up on a riverboat, so water was always present. When I went to San Juan, and later Havana, I learned more about Yemaya, the Yoruba Orisha, mother of the ocean. I began to pray to her, to see the ocean as a vast all-mothering energy. Yemaya graces my pages, a character of her own, among the more earth bound characters that I struggle to understand. Which homelands are real for you and which are imaginary?
I am a granddaughter of the diaspora, so for me, homeland has always been the absence of a sense of place. When I went with my father and brother to our family land above Mariana, in Puerto Rico, I felt a sense of familiarity and connection with my grandmother’s childhood land. Living in Mexico has shaped my awareness of border politics. The violence imposed by my country in the name of “homeland security” against immigrants, brings a heavy sense to the idea of homeland, in how borders create false boundaries.What are you working on now?
I’m editing my memoir, A House by the Sea in Havana. I’ve also begun jotting down notes and stories for a new manuscript that takes place in Mexico. And I’m continuing to work on a collection of poems.Who are you reading now?
I just finished Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz. And am now onto Haiti Glass by Lenelle Moïse. I’m listening to Shabazz Palaces’ new album Lese Majesty, which is a journey of its own, a complex narrative of instrumentation and deep verse.
//Sarah Maria Medina is a poet and a fiction/creative non-fiction writer from the American Northwest. She is Boricua, of mixed heritage. Her poetry has been published in Raspa Literary Journal, As/Us Literary Journal, Codex Journal, Semicolon Journal, Luna Luna Magazine, Qu.ee/r Magazine, and elsewhere. “Iced Cake Frosting,” an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir was recently featured in Lit Journal Midnight Breakfast. She’s also the author of a chapbook of poetry titled Girl Turnin’ Queen and Other (Broken) Havana Love Stories. She lives in Mexico with her daughter, and is at work on her memoir, A House by the Sea in Havana.