Sarah Maria Medina Two Poems

Ode to the River

               i drank you like a sweet tonic/& mermaided inside/you were ice to touch/ but my blood
warmed/you let me pick the shining/from you/i sucked through my teeth/& asked for more

               you rocked me each night after/ my howls quieted to whimper/ you taught me to always
flee to the mouth/where sea expands/into salt from sweet water/ that beyond is the Atlantic

               where ancestors crossed in hulls/& los tías y tíos waited with canoes/& marooned sacred
rainforest/you taught me/that beyond river/there was something expanding/the way

               light expands inside blood/the way sorrow expands inside chest/cage/& if you find a hole
wide enough in your skin/you can open it out/ & all the sadness pours

               you taught me that/my middle name sounds soft/ you taught me to row with both palms
facing skyward/& even though there was no/one to raise me/ to leave you miel, calabaza

               & canela/you still/treated me like i was your small saint/you brought/offerings of seaweed
crowns/& a dead yearling/you tried to drown/my stepfather more than/once but heard my

               mother’s mercy/you took pity on her/accepted my sister’s throat of wasps/you begged
me to remember/you brought salt mouth/to my crown/& trapped a calf/in the marina/then

               let it back out/i saw the way/its blowhole glistened/ & found my own/ you brought me a neighbor
girl/in middle/school who had black braids/& double Ds/you gave me high water

               when I found my hymen missing/i cried into your spilt oil/of rainbow cloud/i lost myself
in you/when you flooded/you taught me to braid sister/braids tighter than mother

               but lighter than you/Oh how I turned into/your sway/ & lost myself there/to the smell of wet
dock/ the mold &/sodden scent of blood/& oil & weed//i watched my sister suck in oil

               when she fell below/she came back up breathing/her eyes wide from what she saw/when
she stopped speaking/that smell of river in our throat/Oh how wide you run/how i let

               my skin to your cold/how you taught me to swim/against current/but then i floated
down toward/that shining gaping/pearl of a mouth   


Dear Ochún,

My brother texts: some        cut up wisdom       & I feel how broken
he sees me:      a five year old girl         a split diamond     between
my wide thighs.         Since I  broke quiet,  since         I spilled,
I watch bootleg      instead of  poem. Ochún,        how can I  write
in English?             I begin, it cheapens                my tongue.
I dream of Standing        Rock. All the silent guazábaras.      I ready
myself,  but I have to pay           rent. I slip        so easily from bed
to river,        I let my hand           over the side           the floor floods
black. River   there between fingers.     I hear your waves as dock
rocks against hull. How kerosene     glows yellow,      smell of wick.
How burnt smoke        sticks to back throat.       It was like this: all
the bad magic       that wept through           that  floating shack
paled to your strength. You rocked        me & constellated hard.
Your sweet       water ran through                 my blood & I spoke
below. Now, they say    the oil snake   begs a sweet    whine through
your waters.      Let me say this:     my daughter is named        water.
Ochún, you gave me river     as daughter    & soy siempre la huracan.
Instead of bohío,     double gold fee. Instead     of forest,   food bank.
I miss      the sound of an aluminum roof. The way    water pours over
& lets me know    I’m home. They say our language   guata    is dead.
They say our people      guata       are dead. They taught          me that
I’m a ghost spirit walking.              They left me on the river.

   Siempre tuya,