Five Poems by Nadia Escalante Andrade
She covers the table and the fissure remains. Beneath the lace stretching over the wood, you can intuit the small gap between the boards. The cold carves cracks into touch, dries out the flexibility of objects; the house becomes more like dust, emerges as cloud. The aftertaste of humid days gathers itself into a solitary leak, an unpredictability of sound in the kitchen. The young woman twirls two bracelets on the table, seeks to enclose in measured circumferences something in her breath that wants to rise up, escape, open up a crevice from her furrowed brow to her stomach, from one door to others, from the earth that trembles to the roof that resists the immobility of parallel walls.
She smooths out the wrinkles in the tablecloth like the certainties of malformed angles; the lines persist in their desire to crease, to contract the surface that folds itself into a crooked standstill. In some sections the lace, mended thrice before, becomes unstitched; there are smaller marks, scars from ancient stains on the thinnest threads. There is no center on this table, it cannot be found; there is no center in this house, the cracks where the cold visits bifurcate further into lines that push one another away.
Beneath the hazy lamplight, the young woman embraces the cedar tabletop. Something of tree remains here, its growth humble, its trunk faithful to the cycles of time, its roots searching for a way between the rocks.
The Eve of Hanal Pixán*
Before the table, our guests
awaken like sprouts from ripe seeds.
Their hands rub together
with the calm of a cistern filled with night rain,
the wind and mugs upon the tablecloths.
They speak as they sort through history’s harvest,
collecting the seeds, each with its peers,
and the debris with the pebbles and pieces of bark.
On the altar, candles, and through the window, dawn.
They will be here
in the kitchen’s smoke, in the glasses of water,
until their advice dilutes insomnia
and its uncertainty: you will not repeat the history
that your ancestors once reaped.
There is something anachronistic about letting in the countryside,
the rain and the weathervanes, the fact of horizon
and cumulonimbus trees seen from the hill;
but, like scissors, it opens—
not another landscape, or another disguise for a face
that carries the wrinkles of always—
it cuts the sky
and the hours, opening the way
and sowing the disquiet,
the sorrowful cynicism, the and yet.
There is something anachronistic about feeding the dead
when they return, bright and pure, for the party.
They drink chocolate and commiserate,
and laugh, partially at us.
They open and shut the doors,
settling themselves into the hinges,
the curtains, and the buds of the tree
with the yellow flowers.
They will not leave
until the clothes are washed,
the floors flawless, and the carpets
without a speck; until our hands
inhabit new disciplines
and our gestures are free of dust.
And then, down the lichen-ridden path behind the stone wall,
they will go, with the scent of jasmine
and the nightingales taking leave.
Summer’s Dark Rain
Do you remember the sound on the roof when the rain fell?
We were together. Eating watermelon without hearing ourselves chew,
the fruit’s juice staining our hands with red.
I told you we should go out to the patio
to rinse out the watermelon from our fingernails.
The rain’s discourtesy vibrated along the walls and plants,
with no other sound to break its din.
Every cloud was entangled in your black eyes,
and that patio where the rain discovered the warmth of the earth
darkened along with your face.
You washed your hands like a slaughterer after the act,
only the water echoed your rhythmic motion
and the fading red fell slowly to the ground.
You cleaned my face with your wet hands,
I still chewed on one black seed.
I felt your cool fingernails along the fence of my teeth.
You took the seed from my tongue
with the careful violence of seeding a fruit.
Your hands’ touch guided my cheeks, and your lips, my breath,
you took my time in your mouth
as water is lost in water.
To hide from the color blue,
we went to the desert.
The day was a mask of night,
—we know it colorless—
breathed in like the remains
of something lost.
We learned to be concave
to contain the passage of the sand.
I entertained your thoughts
within my thoughts,
that way that you had of telling stories
about the breath
and the rings of serpents.
A formation of zeroes,
the black ants of calculus,
walks toward the east,
a red horizon
fastened with pins
to the idea of blue.
We learned to be concave
to reflect the mirages.
We roamed like small creatures,
making creases in the sand.
Memory needs to turn
At home we had no water, and outside it was raining.
We took out buckets and pots
to fill them with the rain.
Sitting on the sidewalk, we waited.
The water flooded the street, but not the containers.
Yet the air entered our lungs with fullness,
and it was more air than the air at home,
like water that would not decide
to fill us up within.
And so it scattered along arms, clung to our clothes,
and slid to our feet like a shadow.
The water’s generosity was slow.
We could see deep into the pots,
the steel that appeared to, little by little,
fill up with itself.
The water became solid and the hard material embracing it
seemed to ripple as it was filled.
We breathed in the air
as we smiled, absorbed by the sounds
that fell outside of our silence.
The water accumulating was free,
one sole substance inside metal.
It spilled over the edge and we had the satisfaction of seeing a body
move beyond its limits, remaining full even as it overflowed.
We too were containers,
full of the sound of the water, breathing
the rain’s air, that air we did not have at home.
We watched ourselves spill over and smiled; we were free,
one sole substance each of us,
two bodies built of generous surfaces,
and deep inside us, the water
rippled along the material’s embrace.
*Hanal Pixán is a holiday celebrated by Maya people of the Yucatan Peninsula from October 31st to November 2nd. As in other Day of the Dead celebrations, in this time the spirits of lost family and friends are welcomed with a traditional altar and foods made especially for the visiting spirits.