Alejandra Cabezas
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We are undoubtedly living through historical times. How will our children learn about the unprecedented events of the past year? They will read about it, no doubt. We'll show them pictures. Movies, even, will get made. The future generations won't be lacking in stories that both inform and entertain. But what did storytelling look like before the diversity of mediums now available to us?

Back when, back then, and always, we had oral history. I am interested in exploring orality's relationship to the mythical. Are those accounts that come from hearsay more likely to get brushed off? What does it mean when we categorize something as an old wives' tale?

This month, I want to retell a selection of Central American legends and stories from my childhood. In giving speech to the subjects of superstition, I hope to reexamine my personal relationship to faith and fear. The public will be privy to my process through Tueplo Press' 30/30 Challenge, in which I will write one poem per day. In fundraising, I want to bring attention and awareness to spaces for poets and hybrid-genre writers who feel like their work doesn't quite fit in. Whether we engage across mediums, languages, or temporal spaces, I want all of us to know that there IS a public interested in the ways we push boundaries.



Poem 1 / Day 1

Don Felix

Cares little for the whereabouts of his mistress.
Spent the night soaked in florida water and rue.

Cured his maladies in a single day, he did. He called
on God, once. Meanwhile the women beat their
breasts, or so, he’d have you hear.

I was there. From behind a colonel’s grave I took
the macho out of him. Frightened men are incurable.

Worthless their cocks and tales. I’d much rather
hear it from Mariana. Marianita, he calls her. And gives
her corn cobs the size of her head. Can’t a woman

ever fetch water in peace? We need no wells where I come from.
She could walk around naked for all I care. Don Felix

would never miss her. He’d find another one. Inmune, this time.
Impotence and citrus make a bad pair. Mariana, do not think
me a worthless beast. Your great-grandmother made a

many like me. Gave us life, she did. You and me. Children of the
tallest tales. These men couldn’t make a story out of the

starriest sky. You’d be better off with the wise ones, Mariana.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Birth Name Unknown

One would think I’m made by men. Conjurers, the devils in their minds. The lusty ones are all the better artists for that. Couldn’t carve a piece of wood if I asked them to. They love to paint pictures no one else will see. Maybe they believe their own tales. They’d have you think the spirits wait for them. As though we have nothing to discuss amongst ourselves. Them, when we’re angry, of course. But I’ve taught my daughters to walk around naked when the moon is full. It’s good for their skin and temperance. I was never very good at holding back. Carved my own wrinkles trying to make myself an ugly thing. A thing that lasts. From the way men speak of me. You’d think me godlike.

Poem 3 / Day 3

Pancho Tercero

Lives in a small adobe house.
Moved all the way from Nicaragua to fish in this small-town port.
His wife is tired of pulling scales from within their pillowcases.
Her biggest solace is making coffee for the seamen at noon.
They come and tell the children about pirates and sea-wolves.

One day the ocean got sick.
Bubbled and bubbled it did with the smell of death.
For six days the whole town starved.
Pancho went to the mountains in search of a miracle.
All he saw was sky.

Kept a cross and handkerchief in his hands.
Thought he’d trap angels with his courtesies.
Meanwhile his wife went into the ocean.
All Sara could smell was salt.
She screamed into the foam and prayed for sustenance.

Poem 4 / Day 4

La Virgen

Come winter, the river rocks grow sad.
Unwilling, they make way for stream and man.
Brave, he sails up, to the Virgin’s grove.
We’re not sure if she’s Mary. Him and his hymns
won’t let us think. Silly, the rain on his back
asking for silence. It’s all ritual when it comes
to the body. From birth to her breath putting
out the last of his candles. It’s always the same.
They leave with a fever, delirious. And when
asked, have no truth to tell.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Woman’s Bible in the Rainy Season

Men love to smoke the color blue. In May, the halls of homes grow damp and wet. When there’s nothing else to do, they pull stories out of their belts. They collect women like one does talismans. Think it’ll help them ward off death. Hope to leave children behind like feeding stock. Did you know hens can be tricked into eating sawdust off the earth? Then they’ll lay little wooden chests. Painted green. Spring. For their secrets. Women grow less trusting every day. I tell them the key is in dismembering. Men and their preachings. The severed ones make good messiahs.


Poem 6 / Day 6

Cipitillo

Little boy eating from the ashes of the earth.

Remember what it was like to run

before the directions tangled up?

In your mother’s braids, the last of freshwater

and love. Your father, God to this plane

where men run from women after dark.

I stayed by your father’s side because I dislike the

intuition and the dew. When it dawns everything

tastes like a beginning. The way I’d like to kiss.

You, little boy, on your dirtied knees. Make my way

across the thick of grain against your chest. Where

you still keep he who sailed away from the law. I too,

detest the taste of staying kept against the logic of the roots.

Poem 7 / Day 7

Antología

I know you’d light my house
on fire without a second thought.

The deed,
my father’s will, would be, perhaps
the weapon

thing with which
to cast

carnations
through my gut

sucker punch
my lungs

at the fill
of your
megalo

fuck your mania.
Many a woman

you turned into
a spectre

scared, you were,
of what corpses
could speak

you need her shut
between your lips

at bedtime when
I am ridden for
tales. Tell me
all about your
lovers.

I’m working
on this thing.

Collecting
ghost stories.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Tomb Deposit

Nothing feels as empty as the trails of the earth. Where once, me and you, now runs a serpent. Bodied thing I am jealous of. With no arms to reach for you. No legs to keep me put. I love standing on puddles until the rain stops. There comes the sun and I find myself in a hole. Never had to carve myself out of the present. I stay, always. One day I’ll drown myself. I’ve heard all about this soil and its precariousness. No doubt the terracotta will outlive me. I am porous. Meant for permeability. My output is my weakness. Everything inside me is either wet or dry. Old things. Uncared for. Left behind in floods. Found drying in the sand. Nothing has ever restored its composition. Chemistry, I know. Nothing ever dies. But the sun and the salt will eat away at me. You have to believe me. I am withered. Meant to serve in the afterlife. There is none.

Poem 9 / Day 9

Persephone and Demeter Take a Vacation

Yellow goddess
at the yolk of it, once,
yanked away from the moon.

Leaps and lactates
like an antelope, jackrabbit,
jointed at its skull. Looks at

me with eyes of gold
and muck. Buried treasure,
perhaps, my mother’s pleasure

for eating tomatoes at
breakfast. Cult of domesticity
as we pull hyacinths from the

ground. Sip on beer and
laugh on papa’s deathbed. God,
forgive us, we didn’t go to church

today. We laid on the steps
of our home. Played poker and
gambled away our secret names.

Trifles, truly. You know the
things men and women call
each other. That’s why we make

ourselves hares and leopards.
Once a year we roam the earth
like animals. This Sunday we brought

the wilderness to our home.

Poem 10 / Day 10

North of Jordan

And what should I say to the clay in the oven?

Baking, red, yellow, and blue —chipped bronze

statue from when you were a goddess. Token

of the crescent moon from when she ripped the

foam off the men and their beers.

Valley of everything that is hot and old. Filled

to the brim with leather sandals and the longing for

ubiquitous cereals.

I know white linens still make you cry.

Memories of when we dozed-off in between the marigolds.

I wish I could hold your name in my mouth the way I

swish and swoosh Georgian wine when speaking of rivers. Be it that

we longed for eternity —like sunsets that refuse

to set. But maybe the lonely archaeologist

of a thousand years will find all the coins

we spent on paints and paper.

Maybe one man or the other will remember the

color of your eyes in the light of the milk

and the coffee. Mornings of prophetic vegetables.

Walking to the edge of the world for the

iconography and the pomegranates.

I know I will always have the sight of stars

netted in your hair. Once upon a purple

light. Once upon a rainy afternoon and

songs for Marianne. I know I will always have

the time you showed me how to sort through

the secrets of the dirt.

How could I forget coming home to rose water or

the communion of the omelettes. But I know

this —we built a temple on our shoulder blades.

And we will settle wherever the numbers know of dance.


Poem 11 / Day 11

Antropología

If you leave a jug out in the open

for long enough, it will either

crack or fill to the brim

with rainwater.



Do you think that by virtue

of the earth, clay should be more

or less resistant to moisture?





After all these years, I still don’t understand

what it means to be porous of feeling.




Are holes in your skin good

or bad things? At one point,

God must have thought we needed

to be guarded from the elements.




At one point, men made Adam

out of the menstruating soil.




If my mother had died in

childbirth I would have broken

my spine before the flowers

had a chance to grow

from my fingertips.




I still remember what it’s like to

fall asleep looking at the stars.



A part of me longs to have the

the sky fall over me.




The oldest part of me resents the earth

for being so far from the

heavens.



Do you think if I crawled into a cove

I would wake up underwater?





Poem 12 / Day 12

Polyester Morning

My curtains are red—
I wonder why, desert rose,
she rose. Deserted I chose
the sandalwood. Scrappy
thing against my skin.
Thing. Thing. Thing.
I’ve made myself
from all my feelings of
red. The way men rub
themselves on me at
markets. Coca-cola
summer fling. Whoops!
Abyss of nothing ever
is blue. Today,
Pacific, Central, West
everything tastes red.


Poem 13 / Day 13

Sirena

I find stars at the end of every barrel.

They’re the wooden nightboats where

my dreams elope. Night after night when

the shellfish, lonely, cling to my tummy.

The fishermen have been asleep for hours.

Back home with their wives and little,

plump children. I am left hungry. Nothing

to feed on but salt and the aftertaste of

sex. I swallow fish whole just to keep

myself from singing. The last man I

loved taught me how to crawl in between

stones. Handy trick for when the waves

wash away the roughness of their surface.

The way I stay still when kissed nowadays.

I save my sounds for beneath the water.

When the jellyfish sting I orgasm. Women

like me are like corals. We open up our

stomachs just to eat.



Poem 14 / Day 14

Coastline Relics

Tell me about the time

you caught the crickets in between

your fingertips,

the soundtrack of the universe

tainted green.

For how envious you’ve been of

glass bottles in the sand

getting picked up

by dreamers and bloodied feet.

The billowing of childhood

innocence lost

to cracker jacks and blue jeans.

But I love the way your

waist dents after

consumption.

Makes me hungry for

stories and silhouettes of

naked nothing. Expired

plastic with your dreams.



Poem 15 / Day 15

Lunchtime Ellipses

The way you hold your mother’s hand

makes me think of the way I hold my

mother’s hand. When we read off each

other’s menus we’re psychics. Picnic

table telepaths. Betting on the strings

of life to hold, at least ourselves, the

two of us, against the tetrarchy of last

names. I want my daughter to have a

daughter. I don’t want to know a spouse

the way my parents did. Reproduction

is a thing of artists and their works.

Delicacy is unknown to my hands.

My touch is big and brass. If I were

a man I would always pee on the

snow. But I am a woman of the sand.

I’ve always been bad at writing my

own name. I want my grave to be

indiscernible from the earth. Tell

me you’ll sit on it and hold your

child’s hand the way we both

hold our mother’s hands.

Poem 16 / Day 16

The Shore
Today my best friend and I built sand castles. We talked about words with epicenters and the ways in which different types of fruits hold different types of seeds. Am I dispersed or have I been displaced? The only place that feels like home is underneath the palm leaves. When you let yourself float everything becomes a river. And what a lazy stream I've chosen. Hoping never to have and face the waves. But the foam seduces me. The way she dissolves in my hands. Like the flesh of the coconut. He'd take the entire day to open it. I take the water and go. I took a little stone home. Sand dollars bore me. I hate the economy of memory. This is what we've built. From disposed nothings. If for a second, kings of the tide.

Poem 17 / Day 17

Food Chain
I'd pull the shrimp out of my stomach for a woman like her. She's the color of shells. Scattered across the sand. Burning red. Fragile white. Purple clams stuck down my spine. I'd eat anything without a pair of eyes. Nothing is more exhilarating than the system. Nervous at my teeth. I keep scallops in between kisses and smiles. Fertility is my biggest secret. In the mirror when I shut down. My freckles dance like starfish. And I pray for a return to the freshwater. But mangroves are a one-way street. I was made a goddess on a boatride. And now the men won't touch me. They pick away at fish from the rocks. They're scared of anything that doesn't dance when killed. For a woman like me, I'd give into the current.


Poem 18 / Day 18

Pearls in the Barn
How misandrous of me
to dress you in primary colored
scarfs, wrapped around your neck
wrapped around my hands, your
freedom of expression in my
dirtied palm.

I'd pull your hairs
until you shrank yourself.
Minute, I'd hang you from my
ears. You'd swing yourself
and sing French lullabies.
Nourished by lies, my hair
would grow. Like everything
you've made, it would
drown you.

I like you more when you're gigantic
and shutting doors like a God
putting out chapters. So go on,
take all of my fineries. I'll stay here,
little boy farmer.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Bucaholic

Even the simplest of doughs is overbearing when

you’ve been starving for days. I took a bite off

a sweet tamale and almost choked on sugar and hate.

Haven’t eaten much anything that isn’t saltwater

or sentiments. Gospels make me cry. I sit on the floor

and pray with dogs. Coffee is sweeter when

made with corn. Cinnamon has the power to predict rain.

I know it’s coming when my tongue spits

out spite. I’m an expert curse-writer. When I save my

appetite for schnapps. I feed on the acidity

that builds up like an internal tide.


Poem 20/ Day 20

The Night is Hot, Let's Wait Together

I'm the person that waits. Legs propped up against the sky. The frost blue bumper burns from when my mother tried to run away. "I am a machine," I tell myself. But I know full well that I feel like a singular part. I never run. On coffee or dreams. I'd rather stay put. I love me a broken-down piece of garbage. Like my telescope. Can never focus on the moon. But I know all it's craters from imagination alone.The tool is merely conducive. To what I already know.

The night is hot. Let's wait together.

Poem 21/ Day 21

Postharvest

An avocado is a

love letter. From

Julia to my mom.

She hasn’t spoken

a word since her

husband died. Not

a thing that wasn’t

auspicious, like a

double-yolked egg

or being born on a

leap day. All she

cares about is

infertility and

decay. But I’ve

given birth to

plenty of things

without life.

And I’ve seen

how my mother,

willing,

lets her most

beautiful plants

die. Unripened

fruit frightens

us. The wait

kills the hunger

when the heart

has been

depraved.

Julia spent

all year

pruning

her skin

under the

sun. For this

one moment.

As my mother

looks at me and

says, “this heart

has been fed.”


Poem 22/ Day 22

Home

I don’t know where I heard that you don’t really belong to a place until you bury somebody you love there. I’ve only lived to see one loved one die. It’s a blessing, you know? Dying in your own home. But my father’s home was wherever he buried those he loved. And I can only hope he’s resting where he belongs. Will it count if my grave is laid on top of his? And what about my mother? By virtue of death, she belongs somewhere else. Look at that, another home to belong to. What will I tell my children when they ask me where I’m from?

“Where the city meets the sea,” I’ll say, “that’s where I’m from.” But I’m not sure it’s the place where we belong.


Poem 23/ Day 23

Memories of my Sanctuary

Whenever I needed balance, I would head to the coast. I’d collect purple shells and line my spine with them. I prayed each and every vertebrae would breathe new life into the emptiness. I am Ixchel, I would tell myself. I give life as I transpire. And I’d lay flat on the sand. I loved feeling the sweat drip from my forehead. The men were always wiping theirs’ off, pretending they were too busy to feel tired. But my village drained me. I always had to have my head up, skyward. And I loved the earth. I loved how cool it was. I loved how hot it made me. This is what volcanic stones feel, I’d say. Ever envious of the elements, I had my shells to clad myself. I’d weave them into a necklace if they were broken.

“You look like a peasant,” my mother would say. “You spend all day toasting yourself like corn under the sun. It’ll make you dry and brittle.”

But I knew this could not happen. I was divine, I was sure of that. I had never met my father. And he was no warrior lost at war. He had to be a god. That made me a goddess.


Poem 24/ Day 24

Pseudo-ideology

Yes, little boy that I am. Can’t help

the tunnels between government and church.

Oh, you’d rather secular me? Can’t believe

Marx is theory nowadays. I

want to tell you all about how I ran away to abolish

ownership and sentiments. Can

you believe I drink beer now? Political sentiment.

I miss how we used to fuck in

underground bars. Moments of legend. Unknown

to our parents and martyrs. Great,

big statement your music is. I’m so good at ambivalence.

In between politics and economics,

you’d win. But with your tattered jackets. I’d still undress

you.


Poem 25/ Day 25

Tlalocan

When a man breaks faith,

the heart of sky woman

makes lightning

from his gilded promises.

My mother taught me how to

breathe to the rhythm of thunder.

The wrath is the easiest bit.

After all, he has laid scorpions

at your feet.

Woman,

invite other critters into

your bed. Learn how to

croak and crawl

your way into hell.

Ask for the mighty God

of Rain and say you

learned how to cry from the

emissaries of death. He’ll give

you a seed and woman, I promise,

you will plow again.


Poem 26/ Day 26

El Capitan

Is sure his wife is pregnant with a boy.

Forces her to carve anthems into bars of soap.

Will only feed her olives if she kneels,

at the church’s courtyard, with the first cockcrow.

I spy on them from the doorway. And

heat her morning water. Make sure to add linden

flowers so she can sleep through her

God. She once asked me if I was married. I said

“yes, he’s a tailor.” I am signed to

alteration and repair. But I told her my husband

made me bleed. That he was proud

as he was prickly. But that he could make her

a dress, pink. To clothe her baby.


Poem 27/ Day 27

Polysastrous

I’ve got daddy issues of an Odyssean proportion.

No, really. The man made me a sucker for bedtime stories.

I always hope the sailors will stay if for at least a little question.

“If you could go anywhere right now, where would you go?”

But I’m the one that stays and weaves, of course.

I always make sure to tell them about the other, hero-losers in my bed.

I’d hate for them to feel unique.

I’m powerful because I’m coveted.

And I reveal my name in ecstasy, to make sure they’ll remember me.

Then I’m left alone and blinded.

But I’m satisfied with having eaten a man or two.


Poem 28/ Day 28

Before the Dripping

You gave me instant coffee,

you say,

but what point was there in

awakening further?

After all,

we had set the spirits

to rest,

bid them goodbye

and ate cake with elves.

The cartography of dreams

is a tricky thing. I know

little of visions within

borders.

Be it that I could look,

like you,

at the symptoms

of the spirit.

But when the water

floors the earth,

I stumble.


Poem 29/ Day 29

Portrait with A Cup of Coffee

Some things are meant to be sweetened,

like the place where the ocean meets

the mangrove,

freshwater,

the image of your life

held within this coffee cup.

Foam of future days

secret-clad

in your pendants

prophecies and

promises unkept.

I know it’s not your fault

the water

stirs so.

An element could never pick up

the phone, the sand would slip

through your fingers,

I know.

Keep your visions at iris-length.

These humans know little of

knitting and sentiments.

Poem 30/ Day 30

Astrology of Numbers

A motor engine

is like

boyhood lost,

when a woman,

language in her breast ,

mistakes pleasure seized

for pleasure gained.

When I think of the difference

between a millimeter and a half,

I think of rulers

broken in two.

Numbers have always been

a game for us girls.

Who looks at the stars

and thinks of counting?

Constellations are the work of sisters,

I tell you.

Civilizations were made by children,

restless, in between

the spear and the sparrow

I thought God up.

Now teach me

more songs about longing;

I’ll lay our passports to sleep.

Why concern them with borders?

We’ll travel by the hour.

When you ask me about the holy spirit,

I’ll say

history.

My school of thought

is place

When youre with me, I’m

eggs

braids

and hands at their supplest.

No deity will pass through these doors tonight.

We’ll make our own stories.