by Jasminne Mendez
Every night before bedtime, I read a book to my daughter, Luz Maria. She always gets to pick. I know she will always ask for the same two books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Where the Wild Things Are.
I make funny faces and use different voices. I teach her about change and loneliness. I hold back tears when I remember all that we lost last spring and how lonely motherhood has been since then.
I tuck her head under my neck and remember how we used to fuss and fight to get ready for toddler time at the library. How she would scream and dart away from me when I tried to wrangle a shirt over her head. How all my anxiety would lift once the singing and story time started. How all the toddler laughter during each song and dance would float and flutter in my belly like butterflies.
She falls asleep in my arms.
Silence slips into the space between us. I sit with it for a while.
In the morning, when she wakes there is no hustle and bustle. No screaming or fighting. No library. No toddler time. The only place we’re allowed to go is for a walk. I strap her in the stroller and step outside.
It is spring again. The birds chirp. Fucking birds. They’re so loud. I wish they would stop. But the birds don’t stop. And they don’t apologize for chirping just like the seasons don’t apologize for changing.
How has it already been a year? How are we still in the land of the wild things? How have we changed so much yet remain stuck inside this chrysalis?
A cardinal swoops down in front of us. Luz Maria points, “Mira Mami! Un pajarito!” She giggles. For a moment I feel better knowing that Luz Maria has not lost her laughter.
I know this is what I will remember:
How the birds sang. How Luz Maria laughed. How these sounds and their echoes inside my chest are the only things that assure me I am here. I am still here.
Jasminne Mendez is a Dominican-American poet, educator, playwright, and award-winning author. Mendez has had poetry and essays published in numerous journals and anthologies. She is the author of two multi-genre collections: Island of Dreams (Floricanto Press, 2013), which won an International Latino Book Award, and Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays and Poetry (Arte Publico Press, 2018).
Her debut poetry collection, Machete, will be released in 2022 (Noemi Press). She is an MFA graduate of the creative writing program at the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University and a University of Houston alumni.
SLAG GLASS CITY · Volume 7 · June 2021
Header image by Jean Ruaud.