Poem by Michelle Lizet Flores
After the doctors cut the tumors out of my mother,
after the year and a half of chemo and radiation,
after her jaw sagged and her eyelids drooped,
my mother began to remember.
It was during her first year in Miami.
Lizet was new to the city,
to her teenage body,
when her grandfather spied on her through the crack in the door.
She was hanging the one red blouse she wore every Friday.
Maybe she was too beautiful,
with her thin arms
and black hair that grazed
the tops of her guitarlike hips.
Maybe he just couldn’t believe that someone so beautiful could be a part of him.
Whatever the reason,
he glided into the room,
grasped her from behind,
and touched the breasts
she was still growing into,
the legs that never
seemed to end,
all the while describing
the ways he could love her.
She was still holding the red blouse, crumpling the lace in her hands, unsure of what to do.
There was no prince to help her,
no knighted brothers
or angelic savior.
But she did have a guajira mother who stormed
into the room after a day of roaming Hialeah.
Olga crushed his guitarrista hands as she thrust
him into the burning Miami sun. She held her daughter’s
face and muttered a prayer Lizet could not understand.
She led her to the shower —
told her to clean herself,
to never speak of the incident again.
Mami didn’t cry as she remembered this.
We lay in bed together.
I let my breathing match hers.
She asked me to rub her scalp.
I grazed the tufts of baby hair
that grew over the C-shaped scar.