Fragments of Mother's Language by Yaccaira Salvatierra


Yo nunca pensé que me iba a casar;
la próxima vez, mejor la pienso.  

Once Mother mumbled,  
never live with a man
who removes thorns from a cactus, 
slivers through the green
oversized-shaped tongue,
and carves out the gelatin meat
to feed it to the cows
instead of the dry earth
beneath you, 
even if he is a good man. 


Me voy a comprar un terreno
en México cuando me jubile.

She worked for the city of tourism, 
transients and lack of translators. 
She never fit the part of tourist, 
yet lived close to an amusement park
by the Pacific.  
In the months of October, 
when entrance to the Zoo was free, 
she would walk straight to the lions,
watch them slumber
to a sleep behind a glass cage.  


Cuando mi padre se iba a trabajar
a California, tu abuela, Guadalupe, 
se convertía en leona. 

Grandmother wanted Mother
to become a nun; 
as a matter of fact, my mother
and her seven sisters dormed
in the town’s salamander-colored convent
during their pubescent years.  
When living at home, Grandmother
would lock all the doors, 
pull the curtains closed
and mutter, Ave María Purísima,
after feeling wrinkles multiply
and deepen like arroyos around her lips. 


Nunca pensé venirme a los Estados Unidos;
la próxima vez, mejor no pienso.  

After living in the convent
and praying for months
to become a workingwoman, 
Mother got permission from the lioness
to attend secretarial school.  
As soon as Mother excelled among her peers, 
the lioness forced her
to accompany Mother’s younger sister
to the States and work
as a live-in nanny in an Angeleno
Spanish-style home. 


Me compraré un terreno mexicano
antes de morir. 

At 63 years old, 
she told me of a PO Box she rented out
when she was married to my father. 
For years, she secretly wrote
and received letters
from another man.  In the backyard, 
like burying cacti into the earth, 
she buried her letters
next to earthworm cocoons.
Right above them, she planted a fig tree, 
which became abundant of fruit
and leaves as soft as skin.


Contributor Notes

Yaccaira Salvatierra’s poems have appeared in Huizache, Diálogo, Puerto del Sol, and Rattle among others. She is a VONA alumna, the recipient of the Dorrit Sibley Award for achievement in poetry, and the 2015 winner of the Puerto del Sol Poetry Prize.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net.  An educator and art instructor, she lives in San José, California with her two sons.