Volver, Volver by Ariana Brown

y volver, volver
to the mouth of the Yucatán
where we first glistened
with a stranger’s tongue,
our old muscles bullied into
lovely wrecks & 
our mothers wept
at the loss, for
they knew language
is the last sound
of war; & then
came the trumpets

a tus brazos otra vez
my grandmother’s
elementary, her inherited
Spanish trickling through
closed lips, as the teacher
instructs, ‘English only’;
& my grandmother
is an essay
on shame, a grito
trembling the walls
the color of sorrow

llegaré hasta donde estés
four years of Spanish classes
to remember the name
of grandmother’s tears;
learning first
to pronounce each
syllable with the intent
of a conquistador - if
I am to grieve properly,
give me my language with
which to do it

yo se perder, yo se perder
black as a young moon, I
am spoken to in English,
the third tongue, final
conquest, never mistaken
for indigenous, never pain,
never daughter of woman
who hums mariachi songs
in crowded restaurants,
skimming lyrics in favor
of memory; & all I want
is permission to love
the gaps in my lineage
as one would the breaths
in a favorite song

quiero volver, volver
& when our tongues spin
in ways we don’t understand,
I open the ancient faucet, let
memory guide this
new music until it is
the shape of something
I can hold,
close, like a prayer,
& I forgive the chaos
violence has left me
& I worship my
flexible sound
& I kiss my lover
with the mouth
I own.

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Contributor Notes

“Volver, Volver” is a famous mariachi song popularized by Vicente Fernández. The chorus appears sequentially in the poem as the first italicized line of each stanza.

Ariana Brown  is an Afromexicana poet from San Antonio, Texas, with a B.A. in African Diaspora Studies and Mexican American Studies from UT Austin. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and a 2014 collegiate national poetry slam champion. An alum of Brave New Voices, Ariana's work has been featured in PBS, Huffington Post, Blavity, For Harriet, and Remezcla. Ariana, who has been dubbed a "part-time curandera," has performed across the U.S. at venues such as the San Antonio Guadalupe Theater, University of California - Santa Cruz, Tucson Poetry Festival, and the San Francisco Opera Theatre. When she is not onstage, she is probably eating an avocado, listening to the Kumbia Kings, or validating black girl rage in all its miraculous forms. Her work is published or forthcoming in Nepantla, Huizache, Rattle, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and ¡Manteca!: An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets from Arte Público Press. She is currently earning an MFA in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh. Find more of her work at www.arianabrown.com and on social media @arianathepoet.