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
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
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—Marie.
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.
Caliente, it's hot
water and sex.
melted in a steel hand-bowl.
A whole block is broken.
The small, unequal pieces
are dropped through steam,
What's seen is true:
a daughter learning
she has to light
A child's a truth-teller:
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.