Isa Guzman

The Moment I Tell My Mother of the Diagnosis

a mother’s symptom: martyrdom
también debo
        tener eso multiple


those are her first words:
guilt with an attempt
at understanding

my spine shudders with scars
& apprehension
i tell her: no
            there were no symptoms
            & it would be in
                remission by now

she’s lived through 70 suns
panapens removed from her ovaries
the whole root del árbol de la vida
pulled without a sign of daughters

she’s lived through 70 years
in welfare lines dressed in
red lipstick    y un grito que podría arrasar
any family court    just to raise me

70 ciclos
of mistranslations y sospechas      a life hyper-vigilant
& dead mothers in her dreams

she tells me:
¿qué es la remisión?
        ¿cuál es la razón?
    ¿a donde cojate esto
¿Qué hiciste?

those are her next words for me:

i’ve lived through 32 years
of night terrors & disembodied limbs floating
around the room     fear as if
my body would fail despite the word:

i’ve lived through
smoke infected fire escapes    & roach infested
pancakes    of fried chicken still bleeding
from the bones
shame for this body    por millones de razones:
my gender my small kidney my diminishing vision
my divergency my exhaustion my weakening leg
my numb hand         qué clumsy soy yo

lo digo:
that isn’t how it works
                    & they don’t know why
                    y nunca sabrán por qué           

        all i know is that every six months
           i’ll go in for treatment
                until i am 60
                si vivo a eso



Isa Guzman is a poet & Brooklyn College MFA graduate from Los Sures, Brooklyn. Dedicating her work to the hardship, traumas, & political struggle within the Boricua Diaspora, especially the LGBTQ+ (Boricuir & Trans) communities within it. Isa helps lead several projects including: The Titere Poets Collective, La Esquina Open Mic, & La Cocina Workshop! She has published her work through several magazines, including The Acentos Review, The Poetry Project (Footnotes), Public Seminar, & also appears in several anthologies, such as The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext. Follow her @Isa_Writes.