Maroc, Asia Suler



See          something nameless
                comes riding
                down the limestone

                scarp and counterscarp

                orange bougainvillea
                blooms in rubber tread

There       was once a word
                  for dust and lifting wind

                 and what comes knocking
                 comes right in

Sofía         in a concrete room
                  nine-hundred tortillas
                  and a fluid-filled lung

                  corrugated tin

A word    meaning
                 assent and what
                 can you endure
                 axles and a season of drought

                 it comes, Sofía
                 it reaches you moaning

 the helpless syllable
                 the driest breath in any language

                 the pickup pulls up
                door loose on its latch
                oh niña, hondureña

                if you know how to shout it
               or even speak

               the word for no is no.

There are seconds before and seconds after
               Sofía lifts her daughter into the truck
               mute abandonment             like a split hair


                             dead dog in the road and no sign of rain
                             wake up mother      child wake up
                                                                 the sun is rising and the wind comes

The circumstances of my own birth: not the back seat of a Toyota, but almost. I don’t know whether it was winter or spring that March, or the condition of the roads.

Some years later, my mother taught me to read the Tarot with a deck of playing cards. Tell it like a joke: the Queen of Spades walks into a bar, a one-eyed Jack on her arm. You can tell he will leave her by the way he looks. Askant.

                         Practice saying these sentences:
                         Please, waiter, I want two eggs and a cup of orange juice.
                         Where is the mercadito? Where is the school?
                         I have two children.
                                                                       I have three children yesterday.

Asked if she could afford the electricity bills on a new stove, Sofía tells us . The interpreter translates this: noShe says yes, but—no. Mothers from La Cantera walk their children to school. Often they can afford to come back for them.

Niña, abandonada. Stands by the orange bougainvillea with a gold star on her page.

                         Niña, una espada negra. Take it. Meet me at the border.
                         I will be the woman with the deck of dog-eared cards.
                         I will be the woman wearing sadness like a too-tight shoe.

The circumstances of her birth: I am told her first sound was a glad gurgle.

Does Sofía save her daughter

                          third of three                          and three years old
                          little fat hands                        thumb sucked shining

mother                       child                       child                   mother

                                 and already                          she will not live forever

                                 but how else this woodsmoke and white flour day
                                 how else will there be time for reclamation

a card is missing from the deck
it is a black three

does Sofía save her daughter
or does little she,                                  does the child—

And the wind comes. The gray ice moans against the Midwest bank. This is after and away, false spring wet as a birth canal. Doesn’t it just break your heart is what the missionary women had to say about Sofía.

I am acutely intact.

The summer my family qualified for food stamps, there was an overabundance of zucchini. My knowledge of rupture, therefore, is limited to the way wet earth responds to germination.

Furthermore, I have rarely said a goodbye that couldn’t take an until—

Still,         I know a few things
                 about the heart.

                 One. It is not a china cup.
The major symptom of empathy: the urge to give away all but one’s sturdiest shoes.

Two—                                   I don’t want to talk about this anymore.
                                               I’m afraid of getting it wrong.

Three       little three
                  asks an orange
                  from a vendedor

                 Sofía winds barbed wire
                 on a cardboard spool

If you forget every language but your own, gesture.

Make       the signs
                 for circumstance
                 and aftermath


                 and the summer storm
                 that took a long time arriving

                 swept the hillsides down

Niña,       la última
                 last-born borne away
                 no one comes after her
                 no surname no

Jamás the strongest word
               for never.


About the Author

Rosemary Bateman, Oberlin College

Rosemary Bateman grew up in the Mink Hills of New Hampshire. She will soon graduate from Oberlin College with a double major in creative writing and environmental studies. She is interested in poetry, walking, tea, and—lately—abstract cartography. “Sofía” was originally published in The Plum Creek Review.

About the Artist

Asia Suler, Vassar College

Asia Suler lives in Brooklyn, New York and writes for the online magazine A Green Beauty.

No Comments

Leave a Reply