(for a.g., you & yours)

the night is silver in its silence
moon-pop echoes of the day
raked up rubble of the hours spent

my, the children slumber
a thousand tomorrows bubbling at their lips
the dream projections lighting up
the clouds’ ample cotton                    relish the silence

as you’ll relish tomorrow
and the honesty of such raucous noise, thick
child feet of our unfeathered breasts, beasts we cherish

hallway run, sprints to smash the mash of food
tumbling, rolling right into these arms
charmed in their amnesia regarding where one
begins or ends

reminding us of the joy
of first step and the storm after the holler:
mama see, mama watch

pitter/patter
                     pitter/patter

thunder on a hardwood, heartbeat
this sole and counted rhythm

every generation a temporal fugitive
running from the death grip
every death ship’s watch, yesterdays
we weren’t meant to make it through
relish the memory ingrained in the sound
how these tiny, tiny feet
grip the floor, say

tomorrow, tomorrow

I make you

tomorrow

More by heidi andrea restrepo rhodes

Flying Down the Five

after Gala Mukomolova’s “On the Brighton Beach Boardwalk”

Families roll on toward summer, its feral freedom, ocean waves 
beckon every sibling like schools of skipjack leaping together to  
catch the sun on their silver scales. Bundles of beach umbrellas  
waiting to be raised high & planted for their temporary kingdoms.  
Trucks bobbing with oranges, station wagons bouncing with  
babies in the back. Lovers fight in the red gleam of a rover or  
swerve in the sweat of a frolick behind the wheel. A highway  
stretch of to & fro, bodies raucous & guzzling. So many dreams  
leaking from gas tanks, the oil drip of wasted want. A congested  
uproar of miles in waiting. So many exits missed.  What-could-
have-beens, just beyond the turnpike. Dead ends. Concrete &
unmoving.  

My aunt, a tree cutting herself down & me with, turns to me from  
the front seat, says, some of us didn’t get the looks in the family, right?
You know how it is. My silence hits the lane markers, all we hear is  
bumpbumpbump. All I hear is my tías telling each other, you are  
beautiful, mija, but wear a hat so you don’t get too dark. All I hear is a  
world saying brownbrownbrown a little too much & I am furiously  
stuffing my mouth with plantain chips crunching centuries  
between my teeth, my lungs a bouquet catching a windfall of  
particles unseen. So much ugly 

I tug on my seatbelt to breathe a little easier, flicking all the dead  
ends off me. A cement barrier, the road of my throat. No one says  
anything, the words filling the car like murky green lake water after  
a tumble off the road. I imagine the doors stuck in the pressure of  
the plunge, my drowned body floating to the surface not pretty  
enough to salvage & burn. I spread to the shoals, a seasoned meal  
in undertow, delicious, at least, to the fish. I am the fish, feral &  
flying.  

But I am flopped against the window, a pane dusty with estival  
judgment. I roll it down, gills gasping for air, my face a drum of  
highway breath, the 65 mph hot wind on my cheek reminding me  
I am a body on an irreplaceable planet. Don’t take everything so  
seriously, I hear. Roll the window up, dear, it really is too loud. 

Related Poems

Hunger

When I rose into the cradle
of my mother’s mind, she was but
a girl, fighting her sisters
over a flimsy doll. It’s easy
to forget how noiseless I could be
spying from behind my mother’s eyes
as her mother, bulging with a baby,
a real-life Tiny Tears, eclipsed
the doorway with a moon. We all
fell silent. My mother soothed the torn
rag against her chest and caressed
its stringy hair. Even before the divergence
of girl from woman, woman from mother,
I was there: quiet as a vein, quick
as hot, brimming tears. In the decades
before my birthday, years before
my mother’s first blood, I was already
prized. Hers was a hunger
that mattered, though sometimes
she forgot and I dreamed the dream
of orange trees then startled awake
days or hours later. I could’ve been
almost anyone. Before I was a daughter,
I was a son, honeycomb clenching
the O of my mouth. I was a mother—
my own—nursing a beginning.

How to Dismantle a Heart

My mother used to say the heart makes music, but I've never found the keys. Maybe it's the way I was brought into the world: dragged across a river in the night's quiet breathing, trampling through trash and tired runaways as if tearing a window's curtains. We were barred from entry but repeatedly returned, each time becoming a darker part of a tunnel or a truck bed. The sky was so still the stars flickered like carbide lamps. We told time through the landmarks of the dead like cataphiles—the warren of a little girl’s murder, the wolf’s irrigation pipe. When you see enough unwinding, beating is replaced by the safety of wings. This isn't goodness. The voiceless are never neutral. Bones sway to elegy. Ebony burrows into the earth as a refugee. I grew up, eventually, but the sun was like a cliff with a false bottom: you'd drop and come out the top again. Enough carcasses draped over the dry brush. Enough water towers empty as busted rattles. When you're a child, the heart has a stiff neck and demands to be played. Later, it limps. Before my knees could begin to ache, I crawled to the levee looking for a broken string. Some wayward zil. I stretched my heart over a manhole and drummed it with broken pliers. It wouldn’t even quaver. It snapped back into a seed, dry and shriveled and blank.

from Understory

(to my wife, nālani
and our 7-month old daughter, kai)

kai cries
from teething—

how do
new parents

comfort a
child in

pain, bullied
in school,

shot by
a drunk

APEC agent?
#justicefor

-kollinelderts—
nālani gently

massages kai's
gums with

her fingers—
how do

we wipe
away tear-

gas and
blood? provide

shelter from
snipers? disarm

occupying armies?
#freepalestine—

nālani sings
to kai

a song
about the

Hawaiian alphabet—
what dreams

will echo
inside detention

centers and
cross teething

borders to
soothe the

thousands of
children atop

la bestia?
#unaccompanied—

nālani rubs
kai's back

warm with
coconut oil—

how do
we hold

violence at
arm's length

when raising
[our] hands

up is
no longer

a universal
sign of

surrender? #black
livesmatter—

kai finally
falls asleep

in nālani's
cradling arms,

skin to
skin against

the news—
when do

we tell
our daughter

there's no
safe place

for us
to breathe #...