Train Tracks

Train Tracks

The train tracks used to

speak to me.

As susurration –

a withdrawing tide at my ankles,

a lariat around my leaden heart.

 

A disguised lullaby,

like an offer from bathtub water of

murmured matrimony.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, September 2017

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While I still struggle with depression and anxiety on and off in my life, there was a time that it was so deep, the train tracks tempted me daily. Clearly, I never gave in. However, it’s something powerful enough, that I wanted to write about it. If you have thoughts of suicide, please seek help. Please know someone out there loves you.

Madison & 43rd

Madison & 43rd

Madison and 43rd at one,

I’ve left a window’s flock of owls

to peer at my empty desk.

 

Bowls of bloody plumes and wood whites

lead me past two gargoyles

with brooch bellies and toothless grins,

boasting of equitable trust

in spite of their u’s carved as v’s.

 

I’m lured under acorn lamps hanging from grape stems,

perhaps to feed the steel brachiosaurus’ with

pendants in their mouths.

 

They appear to be asleep at this time of day

or wary

of Mercury, Hercules and Minerva

loitering above the tourists.

 

Nirosta eagles,

terraced crown guards,

perch above both,

but I’ve safely made it past.

 

In spite of the hard cuffed men who

dodge the bearded man on the floor,

with frayed jeans, a baseball cap, and converses –

hobo or hipster?

– Rachel R. Vasquez, September 2017

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A poem I wrote during lunch break when I worked near Grand Central and the Chrysler building. Frank O’Hara has always been an inspiration of mine. I have his “Lunch Poems” book.

What missing mama is like

What missing mama is like

It’s having to YouTube how to peel yautia.

It’s having to Google translate Spanish.

It’s all the little girls holding their mother’s hands on the street.

It’s all the elderly women and their middle aged clones sitting between shopping bags on the train.

It’s buying flowers every 20th because the petals feel like the tops of her tender hands.

It’s not knowing who to put in my emergency contacts now.

It’s not having someone to ask if these shoes match with this shirt.

It’s realizing my life was on training wheels the whole time I thought I was adulting.

It’s realizing that “You are my sunshine” is the saddest song ever created.

It’s having to keep family drama to myself.

It’s not knowing whether to bundle up unless I actually look up the weather.

It’s sleeping all the time because dreams are the only way to see her.

It’s chronologically organizing and filing day every card she’s ever given to me.

It’s caring for an oversized pair of pajamas the way a museum conservator does artifacts.

It’s not having a partner the night before Thanksgiving who knows how to tuck in the turkey wings.

It’s buying nothing with her name, for Christmas, mother’s day, or her birthday – ever again.

It’s being truly homesick, because home is where the heart is and my mom, was my heart.

It’s crying at the live action trailer of Dumbo, because damn those bastards who take his mommy. Heaven forbid Disney decides to reboot Bambi next.

It’s her number in my favorites, that I refuse to delete, because she is still my favorite person to talk to.

It’s never being able to talk to my favorite person again and when the cold turkey becomes unbearable, it’s stalking her Facebook feed, memorizing text message threads and writing her in messenger despite that it’s the same as writing to myself.

It’s writing her into a Christmas card for my dad because I’ll be damned if I have to refer to my parents as anything other than a pair – two halves of a whole.

It’s having a dream where she isn’t really gone, and it was all a trick, because she is here – in the flesh, and I’ve never known true happiness until that moment.

It’s waking up at one in the morning and realizing she died all over again, and real life, is the nightmare.

It’s knowing my life will always be “the before” and “the after”.

And most of all, it’s knowing I will never bask in the unconditional, effortless love, that is my mother’s.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, January 2019

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I don’t think many people realize, until they’ve lost someone so integrated into their lives, what having that person gone is like. It affects so many things, it’s this gaping hole in your life, that you are forced to live with. To learn to live with.

Some things have “work arounds”, like youtubing a video about something I could’ve asked my mom about. The 2 years before she passed, she taught me how to make pasteles from scratch and we made them together for the holidays. This past holiday, I stood in the supermarket feeling completely bewildered, because I didn’t know the difference between yautia – white or yellow – and malanga. I think if I didn’t have the internet on my phone to help, I wouldn’t have tried making pasteles without her again.

For other things, like the urge to call her, it doesn’t go away. It’s almost been a year and even today, without thinking, I thought, “I should call my mom,” and then to realize, “Oh wait. Yeah…”

Running errands have become quieter for me. Either she kept me company or I called her on the phone to catch up. I like to talk to people when I cook dinner, and she was one of the people I called most. Now there are times I cook in silence, and my husband asks me, why aren’t I talking to anyone? Because sometimes calling someone different makes it feel a bit better, other times, nothing can replace talking to her so I choose to talk to no one at all. There, in the emptiness of a phone call and conversation that could’ve have been – had it not been for cancer.

It sucks. Still trying to find ways to cope. Writing is one way. Taking it day by day.

Mama’s Heaven

Mama’s Heaven

I hope mama’s  heaven is

The Spring

 

trees with cotton candy tufts

pink because

what other color would love be?

bundles of pom poms

like they were dipped into clouds

yellow suns sprout among

the green thickets beneath her bare feet

leaves like canopies,

like baby angels

holding a million tiny umbrellas to shelter

her from a drizzle

heart shaped greens, they wave

like toddler hellos

like butterflies fluttering along

cloister walls

I hope mama’s heaven is

The Spring

so with every flower I see

 

there’s mama

smiling back at me

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, May 2018

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I wrote this the weekend before mama’s birthday on May 8th. Her first birthday without her. I saw a movie with the in-laws the Sunday before and as we were driving home, I couldn’t help, but be in awe of all the flowers in the trees – it was beautiful. I started writing this – hoping that wherever my mama is, that it was a place full of flowers. I bring flowers home every 20th, she passed on Feb. 20th, and for me, the flowers connect us. Her name is Rosalina, Rosa, like the flower. She loved flowers, and by keeping flowers close to me, I hope that in some way, she’s just as close.

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.

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.