Three poems by Erica Maria Litz

Erica Maria Litz

Erica Maria Litz

Erica Maria Litz is the author of Lightning Forest, Lava Root, her first poetry collection, to be published in the coming year by Plain View Press. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in the journals Brink Magazine, Oranges & Sardines, Superstition Review, Literary Mama, Americanisado, Moondance, The Caribbean Writer and quiet Shorts. Of Colombian heritage, her poetry has been influenced by the culture and the musical roots of Latin America. She teaches English for Paradise Valley Community College and she is a volunteer poetry mentor with PEN Prison Writing Mentorship Program.

Te de Limon 
—para Miguel 

Papi, when you take out the knife, 
pass the blade across the oiled flesh 
of fresh lmon, 
your hand—the grace of one 
well-placed beat—runs the steel down 
to the rind, through the meat, 
the juice brought to the edge of bursting 
until you hold a half and squeeze, 
wind with your warm, clean hands 
and crush a world that fills the pan with the sour 

de lmon. 

Heated with water and honey, 
the rind remains—its oils 
the cough into quiet 
where a man hums 
holds a child in a tender dance, 
cradles her above the kitchen floor 
in his arms—a slow tide 
she rides to the shore of ease, 
free of the hagridden night. 



Mother, you turn mirrors during storms. You fear 
the reflections, the call-down of a strike. 

Eyes that have seen 
something they never should have— 
lightning, a swell passing over us. 
I face history in your eyes, Mother. 
At seventeen, I saw my birth certificate. 
I wasn't recorded with the name you gave me. 
Angry in a changing ignorance, I threw "why" like knives. 
You caught them in your teeth, you explained: 

Your middle name, Maria, 
is all yours, your grandmother's legacy. 
I had let yours go, 
just on paper
I thought—-we had to 
be in English. 

I took our name back, Mama, 
when I married, legally claimed what you call me, 
what you have always called me, 
who you have always been- 
Mother in a Storm of Lightning.


Agua Panela 

Caliente, it's hot 
water and sex. 
Sugar, raw, 
melted in a steel hand-bowl. 

A whole block is broken. 
The small, unequal pieces 
are dropped through steam, 
are dissolved. 

What's seen is true: 
a daughter learning 
she has to light 
the stove. 

A child's a truth-teller: 
Papito, yesterday 
me and Mami 
went to the blue house again. 

She was left. One ought not leave a child 
playing in the center garden of the local house for lovers. 

The walls and windows of every room exposed, 
whether open or closed, a child 
knows without knowing: courtyard— 
the word for what remains of hard-memory. 

She adds cinnamon 
so medicine for children 
can taste as it should. 

Like rice pudding, 
a woman could forgive 
her honesty as a child, 
wrap herself in hand-woven wool 
dyed orange, pink, 
could sip something warm to relax 
her heart muscle.