Being Latina Escúchame: My earth grows as cumin, my fire burns as chiles, My wind howls as gritos, and my water quenches as café de olla Te digo: My kitchen is the foundation and nature my ingredients My cauldron is my coffee pot offering awakened thoughts My wand is my wooden spoon mixing ingredients and spices just so My family grimoire is a recipe book, taped and annotated by female hands My herb grinder is a molcajete of lava rock strength and seasoned perfectly My broom is rising on the breeze carrying spicy scents out of doors My spoken spell is mariachi from deep within, filled with emotion and fire My healing is nurturing and maternal arising from sana sana, colita de rana And my familiar is my friendly dog who dances for bites abandoned to the floor Pero cuidado: While my sweetness crystallizes as cinnamon, my prickle pierces as nopales, And my chingona strength is from ancestors who travelled this path before
A mother’s love, in four parts 1. A mother’s love I can write a poem about anything: The grace of a single leaf1 I see Outside my window right now2 As it lets go of the branch and dances With gravity3. The leaf is rusty orange, A chemical4 release. Floating, falling To join its once siblings, bedding, In transition, different possibilities Sometimes, the air whispers5 A slowing of time, movement Asleep in a dusk, darker environment. The leaf has disappeared. 2. A mother’s love can only go so far I can write a poem about something: The senselessness of violence6. Violence by firearms7 Abandonment. Outbreaks of rage. Human against human. Red slashes of darkness. Children as targets8. Not random. Aimed. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Uvalde9. Piles of tears. Mountains of angst. Rivers of sorrow. Oceans of desolation. Canyons of hollowness. Emotional brutality of grief. 3. A Mother’s Love I can write a poem about everything: my fierce love for my freckled-nosed10 child. Half brown, half white11. Solace in nature. Passion for animals. Constantly learning. Children see the world in ways I’ve forgotten. Magic and mystery. Questions and answers. Innocence and fragility. Beauty in simplicity. But one day this child will have no choice except to learn to navigate an adult world of dancing leaves and the downward force of gravity and irrational, pointless violence12. 4. A mother’s love, unbroken Or, maybe, I can even write a poem about nothing.13 And call it nihilism: Though my words are silence I am not yet broken.
1 It is an American elm leaf (Ulmus americana), as Dutch elm killed the English elm (Ulmus procera)
in this rural area of northern England in the 1970’s.
2 Einstein tell us in his Special Theory of Relativity that time is not absolute; this right now is my
minute of relative time. Not yours.
3 At the Earth’s surface, the acceleration of gravity is approximately 9.8m/s2.
4 The chlorophyll has broken down and the carotenoids are making their presence known to create such
5 A soft whisper is 20-30 decibels (dB) while average human speech is 55-65dB and a scream is
between 80 to 125dB.
6 According to the FBI crime clock, a violent crime is committed every 24.6 seconds.
7 Firearm deaths are five times more common than drowning.
8 Daily, 12 children die from gun violence in the USA. Daily, another 32 are shot and injured.
9 41 school shootings in 2022. Alone. And there have been 2,032+ school shootings since 1970.
10 Freckles are linked to a variant of a gene named MC1R.
11 Maternally Latino-American and paternally Irish-English.
12 A murder occurs every 30.5 minutes, a rape every 3.9 minutes, a robbery every 1.7 minutes and an
aggravated assault every 39 seconds.
About the Author Elisabeth Contreras-Moran is an environmental scientist turned writer and poet. She has degrees from Princeton University and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY and became a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Center, CUNY before she moved to rural England. She trained as a teacher in England, now home educating her son and his friends in nature-immersed ways. She writes and creates at night, when the house is quiet. Elisabeth enjoys writing poetry, gardening, and authoring and illustrating children’s picture books. A newly emerging voice, her poetry has been in Alebrijes Review’s Cultura column and Litro Magazine. Though she cannot speak Spanish fluently, she sometimes dreams in it. About the Artist for "Being Latino" Alondra Cruz is a Mexican American self-taught artist based in Chicago. She discovered a passion for acrylic painting back in the Summer of 2020 while taking a painting course for the first time. Alondra's inspiration for her work stems from personal experiences, people, and places. Alondra has worked with various traditional mediums such as charcoal, ink, watercolors, chalk pastels, oil pastels and much more. Alondra has also worked digitally on some of her projects. Although Alondra's favorite medium to work with is acrylic paint she is always open to discovering and working with other mediums. About the Artist for "A mother's love in four parts" Neida Adriana Aguilar is a first-generation Mexican-American artist, photographer, creative director, and fashion designer born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago. She discovered her passion for photography during her freshman year of high school and has been using the medium to tell stories ever since. Aguilar's work is known for its conceptual and surreal style, often highlighting personal life and emotional experiences as well as political and social issues with a focus on people of color and women of color. Her photographs are not just pictures, but rather a visual representation of her voice, highlighting the struggles and triumphs of her community and personal life. In addition to her photography, Aguilar is also a creative director and fashion designer, further showcasing her artistic talents. She uses her fashion design to amplify her message and bring awareness to social and political issues that affect marginalized communities. Aguilar's work has been exhibited in various galleries and art spaces in the Chicago land area, and her photographs have been featured in several publications. She has also been recognized for her exceptional work and has received multiple awards for her contributions to the art world. As a Mexican-American artist, Aguilar hopes to inspire the next generation of Latinx creatives to pursue their passions and showcase their unique perspectives through art. She continues to create thought-provoking and impactful work that challenges the status quo and sparks conversations about important issues.
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