Agony

Agony

Oh God! Oh agony!

Throb that has been cast on me!

Oh silent searing

in my soul!

This violent breaking

of my home!

My womb, my mother

from where I was born.

My roof, my shelter

from this life’s storms.

Hacked off from me

like limb from body.

Hands gone from me,

like wind not breathing.

Meandering, I’m grounded

to this earth.

Wandering unfounded,

still I search.

Her laughter, her being,

my ears bleed with strain,

to hear her tell me

she loves me again.

But an empty cold hearth

I receive.

Her safety and warmth,

I feel only in dreams.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, April 2018

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2 months later and still hurts like no other. It’s hard to put this kind of despair into words, but I tried to any way.

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Candles

Candles

My mother never liked candles.

Twice they were responsible

for a childhood blaze.

Now, like a candle,

her life wanes.

 

Her lips form soundless shapes

on January 9th,

“Happy Birthday.”

She smiles bright and sleepily

even when she’s held me to

her swelling belly

after I cried to “You are my sunshine,” on the guitar.

She mouths, “I love you, “

as if she’s drifting.

 

Sailing on the lip of a parting boat

and I am her shore.

The ocean between us grows by the hour.

 

Her glow extinguishes

with every breath,

her soul relinquished,

lying dazed, unfocused, silent –

she becomes far.

 

Her body rancid,

we count the days,

her wick dims placid.

 

A piece of my heart,

a piece of her goes.

I pray God carries her

afloat like music notes,

as she slowly sets like a sun,

into a gentle wisp of smoke.

 

Tallow lessened into rest

until her time has run.

Ended to infinite slumber,

from ember to ashes,

a votive that has un-mothered.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, February 2018

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I wrote this in February within the weeks my mother was becoming less like herself. By then she was in a nursing home, intubated via tracheotomy, and Pleurx catheters in her lungs and stomach. Although she survived a bout of pneumonia in December and January appeared hopeful, as February rolled in, I noticed she was sleeping more, becoming less focused, and forgetting things you told her minutes before. The cancer was progressing fast. A church friend of hers sat with me and said it reminded her of her father, who, like a candle, dimmed each day until he wasn’t there anymore. I wrote this praying that if I could not keep her, that God at least take her peacefully, without pain.

Room 10-24

Room 10-24

There was a woman I didn’t recognize,

the same color as the walls,

stacked like a house of sticks frail enough to knock over with a touch,

waiting for her daughter.

And I,

looking for my mother

popped my head into each room desperately.

In the room I passed

this woman I didn’t recognize was

until my cousin said,

“That’s her!”

I’m here mama. I tell her I love her, kiss her short haired head, and hold her hands.

I try to focus on her smile and not the tubes.

I come home guilty because

for just a brief second

she was a woman I thought I didn’t know,

until she was my mother again.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, November 2017

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This is the first poem I’ve put on this site for 2018. I have gone on internet hiatus with social media, my blogs, and writing in general since October. There’s no easy way to say any of this, but my mother, my sweet mama who I lovingly refer to as “mamasita”, died in February after a 4 year fight with stage 4 breast cancer. My life has been whole heartedly focused on the last 6 months of my mother’s life and now that it is “over”, I have never felt so – angry. Lonely. Heartbroken. Lost. Out of place in this world. Like I’m living in a twilight zone where everything else moves when for me, it’s like the sun has been blotted out of the skies.

I’ve spent my life writing. My mother knew I loved to write. And though I haven’t felt like myself in months, and I can’t imagine a future where one day, “this” will feel okay, I know that this is step one. Step one: Get back on my blog, my twitters, and write. Do the thing I know I loved once and hopefully it will get me through, one day at a time.

I am thinking of creating a blog dedicated to the last 6 months of her life- of my life when she existed in it. There are so many emotions and so many lessons learned, writing seems the only way to get it out of me. Until this new blog comes into existence, this is one of the first things I wrote as things began to go downhill. When I was beginning to face the fact that my mother was dying.

She was in the first of what would be a weekly routine of urgent care and hospital stays before the climax in December and the end in February. I was looking for her room in Memorial Sloan Kettering with my cousin, and I passed right by it. I peeked in there, saw a woman looking down at the floor, and I didn’t recognize my own mother. I kept going, trying to find her, when my cousin pulled me back saying that she was in the room I’d just dismissed.

When I realized that I didn’t recognize my mother, it was terrifying, and I felt incredibly guilty. I would never tell my mother that I didn’t recognize her. I cried when I got home that evening when I told my husband about it. I’m crying just writing this, but I’ve gotten this far! I’m typing! I’m going to keep trying and no matter how painful, I’m going to vent this in one of the only ways I know how.

If you have a mother alive, please, cherish her always.

Scissors

Scissors

When you cut me from your life,

did you use scissors?

 

Did you cut carefully

like I was a curving,

challenging,

stencil?

 

Occasionally I feel like

a frayed ghost limb

from a thoughtless tear.

 

Maybe I was creased first

before you casually

pulled           me              apart.

 

Tugged. Me.

With the same soft swipes you’d use

to shoo dust off your loved one’s cheek.

 

Did you use a cookie cutter?

I’ve felt shaped differently since.

 

I don’t feel you balled me in your fists before discarding me,

but I feel crumbled nonetheless.

 

Did you commit my calligraphy

to memory?

Recalled our childhood and chronicled

all we had,

held me to your heart,

before you severed us?

 

Whether you shunned me away into a

water-stained box, full

of your childhood knick knacks, waiting

for your hands to wrinkle to be

treasured again,

or tossed me into the same wastebasket

of shredded due dates and credit card offers,

I still have to ask.

 

Did you have the decency to use a pair of shears?

Once they said we were cut

from the same cloth.

Yet I still feel the ripping

from your bare

clenching hands.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, September 2017

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A Halloween Memory

A Halloween Memory

All Saint’s Eve, daddy took little miss piggy

to the Cypress and Harman bakery,

where they gave her cookies and pennies,

and her pumpkin was brimming,

until mommy stripped wrappers

off tootsies and suckers by evening.

Inspect for catheters, needles and blades.

Don’t get too gleeful,

mommy checks for evil and lethal –

all to keep her piggy’s kisser safe.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, Oct. 2017

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It’s not Halloween anymore, but better late than never. Didn’t originally title this – but it is what it is. 🙂 Once upon a time, my mother would check every single piece of candy I received on Halloween just to make sure it was safe before I could eat any.

Please. Don’t come home to die.

Please. Don’t come home to die.

Please. Don’t come home to die.

My primo, listen, I’ll tell you why.

 

Imagine the gut wrenching screams your parents will have,

When they have to ID your body from a body bag,

Found in an alley, needle in hand,

No will, no testament, to the life you lead.

 

You wanna choose hood over blood,

But tell me little cousin,

Who will choose your coffin?

The wood of your casket,

Your flower arrangements?

 

You tryin’ to quiet the racket in your mind with poison,

But who will choose your last suit and tie?

 

Please. Don’t come home to die.

 

Don’t drown, don’t wither,

Don’t go, stay steady.

Don’t go preppin’ your obituary.

I left church years ago,

but I’m praying you find sanctuary,

For your weary heart and broken past.

 

Remember the albuterol mask on your face as you slept,

The comics my father gave, that you never read,

The brands on your back that your mother earned,

You were my chubby cheese club before you drank burn.

 

Death only stops kindly for those who don’t stop for death.

Don’t go rushing to be laid to rest.

Your parents paid school and paid rent.

Both made mistakes, not gonna lie, not gonna pretend.

 

Neither can claim they always did you right,

But they’ll both weep loudest once you’ve left for the sky.

 

So please, don’t come home to die.

 

You can hang your mantle,

You can share your burdens,

But don’t let them dismantle the life you’ve built.

 

Don’t matter the clique you roll with

Or the titles.

Don’t let the tides hold you in it’s grip.

 

I won’t say it’s easy,

But I want you to try.

It ain’t simple but please.

Don’t come home if you’re trying to die.

Come home. To live your life.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, Oct. 2017

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Be wary of the streets – they can take your family…

Maria and my Mother

Maria and my Mother

They say you should never take your mother for granted.

I discovered too late that this applies to mother nature, and my mother land from whom I can only sputter my mother tongue.

I’ve only lived in Puerto Rico in two ways. In pictures, and my parents; from the bandera brandished mugs, plates and porcelain bells behind the glass of the chinita my mother inherited from my grandmother, America.

My entire childhood, my father described the sound a coqui makes, and always danced in his bedroom raking a guiro or tapping a cowbell. When he wasn’t listening to cassette tapes, he was drumming his fingers on the dinner table.

My mother made rice and beans for dinner almost every day, filled our railroad apartment with the smell of homemade sofrito and gave me commands twice. When she wasn’t angry, in English and in Spanish, and only in Spanish when she was.

Their stories of the island felt like hearing about heaven’s gates – climbing mango trees for a snack, being able to see your feet beneath the ocean water and the odd story of fleeing from bulls.

When they brought me there at 3 years old, they say my asthma disappeared. As if the island knew I was hers, and healed me so long as I was in her arms.

I hear her in the congas. I taste her in the pasteles we buy for holidays. I feel her in the brief New York summers that can only mimic. I feel closest during June when all her children don her colors and summon her spirit with bells, horns, and whistles.

I’ve always told myself I’d see her one day, see her again, but for the first time, so I can remember her. But now…

They say you should never take your mother for granted, and mother nature tore through my mother land to teach me a lesson.

I can only say this to her in my mother tongue –

Lo siento.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, Sept. 2017

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Puerto Rico is in trouble. The whole island is in darkness for at least a few months, and it’s agriculture is completely destroyed. Half the population is without drinking water and conditions are making it difficult to get supplies to residents. My people need your help. Consider donating anything you can!

I only wish I got to see her as an adult before Maria happened.