I creep into your room, Abuela.
Like an 8-year old on Christmas morning
up 3 hours too early,
but it’s 1pm and you’re still sleeping.
I decide to wake you.
Call me selfish, but
there’s something left in you
that I need hold before you’re gone.
As your eyes open, I wait
your face, trying to make sense of mine,
trying to translate me into something you’ve spoken
And I know it only takes about 22 seconds,
but I swear, it’s long enough for me to fall in love
“Abuela, yo soy tu nieta. Recuerda?”
And there your eyes widen like football fields,
as you reach for me in your back pocket, like a
crumpled dollar bill
you forgot you had, showing me
that I have always been worth holding onto.
After we exchange short Spanish greetings,
I try to keep the conversation going,
but I’m not fluent,
this language, your language
was always bumpy road.
So I turn the radio on to fill the pot holes in my tongue
and we dance.
Let Celia Cruz lay the clues that stitch you back to me
the lyrics pulling themselves over the gaps in your
like a jacket covering the puddles in your
memory lapses, synapses snapping,
and though your mind is a retired dancer with two left
your spirit is a 22 year old woman,
with legs that could wrap Christmas presents for days
hips that could make God want a lap dance.
Every chorus a question I ask like:
“Abuela, how did you feel when it was illegal to wave
your own flag?”
Every melody, a moment to capture your history like:
“Abuela, did you really walk 3 miles to school everyday?”
Every riff, a chance to end those sleepless nights once
and for all:
“Abuela, did you ever figure out how to stay in love?
I promise I won’t tell a soul I know.”
See when we dance,
we make corpses wanna boogie.
You in bed, moving your arms
conducting the skeleton of my body like a symphony
my hips, rocking back and forth, with a dip and a twist,
kissing the accents in your favorite song’s lips,
reaching for the dimple’s in your memory
for me to take a picture with.
I can make you feel like when she was 22,
growing up in a poor Puerto Rican town
too high up to place on the map.
Abuela, do you remember you yet?
And I know this just amuses you, but the
truth is this was never just dancing.
You represent of part of me that people said I could
You give me the language to speak my identity fluently,
for the first time
this was never just dancing.
And maybe it’s because I’m the only one that can get
the 22 year old in you, the joy, the smile
that forgets to show itself on most days.
Abuela, you make me feel useful.
You make me feel like I come from someplace, so
who needs maps any way, I have you.
So go ahead Abuela, sleep – just not forever.Because you and I have a lot more dancing left to do.