It is midnight & Papi is buzzed onstage singing songs of la patriato men without mothers; an ocean of cerveza & swaying—their necks extending like swans.
On an island far away, las tías in white skirtssit in a circle writing words on plátano leaves.They walk home when night falls;a bevy of swans, the leaves strewn by the river.
That night, the aloe shook with the windits leaves pointing past the window,a line of nimitas gliding to the river.
Abuela pressed her palms together,like the flattened wings of nightingales. The night was paper.The tea still steaming.
The leaves left by the river:mi hija, la bodega, tres hijas, una guitarra, se van de la isla-
That summer the marbles on Abuela’s floor rolled north.The swan circled the lake eleven times — one time for each lighthouseguiding mariners to the coast of New Jersey.
Mami with a mouth like a lighthousesat on a rock & opened her mouth to singher tongue filled with pebbles and lilies.
I was born in the middle of an ocean —Mami with a lungful of winter & an aloe plant beside her.
I was born from the womb of a guitarin a bar where the lights flicker —the morse code songs of my ancestors.
I come from a prophecy left on leaves& a line of fireflies out the window.
I come from a house that everyone has left —the tea still steaming, waiting for usto return.
I come from an island& I do not come from an island.
I come from a long line of women.
I come from a long line of swans — the necks of cervezas,the bar after dark, the men like nightingales —
I come from a long line of men
with no mother land.