Diaspora & Broken Memoir

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Goldfish markets, salon girls, Girl Scout cookies, star showers, lonches, México & the marble ranks.

Young Memoir

I was born. My ears were christened
with a sewing needle in the kitchen
by my grandmother. White sidewalks warned us
that bilingual kids make playgrounds hostile.
So I sold shortbreads with Girl Scouts each winter
as I climbed the marble ranks. Life broke more rules;
I canoed fifty-two miles forward to a sun setting behind me.
I saw a tree rip off the earth and get flicked across the yard
like a scab. I moved West, became a minister. Flunked
the purity exam—I was stabbed by a diamond before it could
snail down my finger. I got stuck in my hair; I fell out
in nine clumps. As we all learn eventually, everything
shatters upwards. Saying yes is just saying no
to a thousand other things. I searched for it, jogged
through the woods, but healing is not linear. I zigzagged
past the creek, pulled a piece of glass from my heel
the size of Seattle’s Space Needle. I found myself in Hong Kong
at a goldfish market, bobbing dumbly in a plastic bag.
Somebody worth forgetting told me something
worth remembering: there are few things you can do now
that will fuck up your life when you’re forty.
I went to Santa Fe and let the sun in,
unfolding each year per heat. Like you,
I’m on the run. I hiked Mount Rainier alone on my birthday.
I’ve never breathed better. The light I see now
startled every one of my Polaroids.

Compass Rose

Jalisco, Tapalpa, Tequila

M    éxico and America clash in my blood and this strip mall,
but forget the perfect lonches steaming from a car trunk or
the Krispy Kreme neon buzz behind, because today home ignited
in my cell count, wordless reunion of self with the selves who createdus.
After years of the Midwest suburbs, I met a salon girl who said
her mother, too, cleans the house to Santana on Sundays. Later,
a nightclub bouncer hand-selects rich fresas from the line like conchas
for his sugar-dusted tray. I hated myself for acting like a tourist, swallowing
a scorpion drowned in alcohol, expat version of the true worm.
Tequila-soaked, morning brings me a dog to greet, perched on a rooftop.


A newborn makes noises that match its sonic culture, ñ’s and acoos
instead of American spit bubbles, and this is how I felt in the desert
streets: ridiculous, fetal and pre-immersed. I know these sounds, these curls
and those eyebrows. I am home, yet confusing every waitress with my strained r’s.
I see a family straight out of my mother’s childhood, lying on a mattress
in the back of a pickup. I want to swing from my Uber, ask them who I am.
Giant succulents dot cliffs in a star shower, a hot moon cooperates
with banda blasting, radiating the night ’til every ocelot retires.
Come morning, I push my thumb to a four-wheeler up a highway,
droning toward adrenaline, affirming my search with the empty space ahead.


M    artín snuck us into a mezcal factory. Thousands of agaves thundered
out of trucks from the gods. We, mortal, assimilated, tripped over the ancient
fruit behind a guard, escaping by buzz of motorbike. Windows opened
as we passed in dust. He laughed like my mischievous cousin, waved to his old tía.
In search of a friend to lend an ATM, we passed a mural, which showed
how the town was struck by lightning years ago. The gods blasted agave,
fermenting the starry fruit by magic. Legend and fact say Spaniards came to steal it.
To hinder troops, an Aztec schmoozer visited enemy camp, threw a party. The generals
got so drunk they were tied to a tree, lost their guns. We pass another tourist trap.
Aimless motorbike. Dim distillery. Martín fights with a bartender who is also
his best friend’s sister. I don’t even like the stuff, she says, pouring another double.

Marisa Tirado (@marisatirado) is a Latina, Chicana and New Mexican poet from Chicago. She is the founder of an international collective called Protest Through Poetry (@protesthrupoetry), which provides seminars, publishing opportunities and creative community for BIPOC activist poets. She studied poetry and literary translation at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her work can be found in Triquarterly, Colorado Review, Michigan Quarterly Review and elsewhere. Her upcoming chapbook, Selena Didn’t Know Spanish Either, is the winner of the Robert Phillips Chapbook Prize and will be published in spring 2022 (Texas Review Press).

Lead image: Danie Franco

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