Renee and I, hers—in the urn by her desk 
and mine—alive in an apartment forty minutes 
from here, probably watching a telenovela, frying 
plantains, texting me goodnight. Renee’s mother isn’t
really in the urn. She’s in the blue wall, 
the beach landscape painting, the dog 
barking at the unexpected, the jangle of silver bracelets. 
We are all carrying our mothers, and we are all better 
daughters with the dead. She tells me I am wise, 
and all I can think about are the moments of my unwiseness: driving 
and sipping margaritas from a water bottle, the bruise 
on my arm and taking him back. Her husband 
is away at the family cabin, and she is glad 
for the space. My husband doesn’t exist, and I am 
sad for the space I make my home in. I buy sunflowers 
and goat cheese, throw a dinner party for the ghosts. 
I don’t know Renee’s mother’s name to send a proper invitation.
I don’t know the names of the women in my family 
past my great grandmother. How will I call upon them
when it’s time? Will I call them Mary or Venus 
or Yemaya? I’ve yet to burn the palo santo, the sage. 
I want to leave behind a legacy of light. 
I want to leave someone better. 

Copyright © 2022 by Diannely Antigua. This poem appeared in Narrative Magazine, 2022Used with permission of the author.

I have no answer to the blank inequity
of a four-year-old dying of cancer.
I saw her on TV and wept
with my mouth full of meatloaf.

I constantly flash on disasters now;
red lights shout Warning. Danger.
everywhere I look.
I buckle him in, but what if a car
with a grille like a sharkbite
roared up out of the road?
I feed him square meals,
but what if the fist of his heart
should simply fall open?
I carried him safely
as long as I could,
but now he’s a runaway
on the dangerous highway.
Warning. Danger. I’ve started to pray.

But the dangerous highway

when I hold his yielding hand
and snip his minuscule nails
with my vicious-looking scissors.
I carry him around
like an egg in a spoon,
and I remember a porcelain fawn,
a best friends trust,
my broken faith in myself.
Its not my grace that keeps me erect
as the sidewalk clatters downhill
under my rollerskate wheels.

Sometimes I lie awake
troubled by this thought:
It’s not so simple to give a child birth;
you also have to give it death,
the jealous fairy’s christening gift.

I’ve always pictured my own death
as a closed door,
a black room,
a breathless leap from the mountaintop
with time to throw out my arms, lift my head,
and see, in the instant my heart stops,
a whole galaxy of blue.
I imagined I’d forget,
in the cessation of feeling,
while the guilt of my lifetime floated away
like a nylon nightgown,
and that I’d fall into clean, fresh forgiveness.

Ah, but the death I’ve given away
is more mine than the one I’ve kept:
from my hands the poisoned apple,
from my bow the mistletoe dart.

Then I think of Mama,
her bountiful breasts.
When I was a child, I really swear,
Mama’s kisses could heal.
I remember her promise,
and whisper it over my sweet son’s sleep:

        When you float to the bottom, child,
        like a mote down a sunbeam,
        you’ll see me from a trillion miles away:
        my eyes looking up to you,
        my arms outstretched for you like night.

From Mama's Promises, published by Louisiana State University Press. Copyright © 1985 by Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

They came from the municipalities  the cantones  the in between  children of campesinos  day laborers  drudges. They crossed water and deserts and left children  elders  husbands. They were children  lovers  spouses  mothers  elders  vagabond escapists. They prayed in the back of trucks so hard the virgin mother revealed herself at checkpoint to offer the miracle crossing of another boundary. Something was happening to them. So much had happened where they left. They changed the swelling cities but the cities changed them. They gathered burn marks  bruises on their arms in kitchens  in hotels  in other homes. They hid their names behind other names. They learned and did not learn new language. They crossed themselves waiting for buses  car rides  late night  early in the morning. They entered apartments at twilight where they laid beside sisters  friends  lovers. What were they dreaming as they slipped into their kitten heels  hair cut short  madonna-like lips painted red  dancing in the discotecas  downtown  uptown   outside the loop. They guarded pictures in their purses. They guarded themselves. They married for love  married without it  and they did not marry. And they loved  they learned  and they did not love. Learned to find and tuck themselves into their secret seams. The many things they would not tell their children. With illicit seeds they grow what they left behind  among the brush  little stems  memorials  now adornments at their windows.

Copyright © 2023 by Maryam Ivette Parhizkar. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.