Abecedarian

Michelle Bermudez is a Latina poet who received her MFA in creative writing at Adelphi University, where she is also an adjunct instructor. Her poems and prose have been published in Isacoustic, Sugared Water, Miletus, and Persian Sugar in English Tea: An Anthology of Short Poems and Haikus (Volumes 2 & 3). She lives in New York and is currently at work on a collection of Spanglish poetry.

116


Abecedarian 


 
After waking up, she makes her hands into loose fists and wipes her face like the  
bunnies she loves, taking sharp breaths and fast laughs as her  
cheeks get redder and redder and I don’t think I ever want to sleep alone anymore so I  
drive for hours, push my old car past its limits and through 
elements it shouldn’t be in, just to feel her nose twitch every time she  
gets to touch kindness. The hands of  
God are never themselves and he used both to make her and  
is that not the most undeserved of gifts? 
Just think of humanity—mortality without devotion—never begging, never  
knowing what it is to whisper at the feet of a woman who means everything, whose  
laugh could make a coqui’s throat tremble like an ordinary frog—a slave to the world and a 
master of nothing, but the coqui— he knows his worth like God knows language and how he sings at night—not to put us to sleep, but to remind us of the things we have done… 
O the things I have done at her hand and will do over and over again to  
prove that I too, will never forget the language of a woman in love or a woman who’s sorry,  
Questionable words, yes, but I for one have never met a woman in love who wasn’t also  
really sorry for something she has done and sometimes she doesn’t know what that  
something is so she waits and waits for the coqui’s song to come tell her but  
the trees have gone silent and the forest isn’t talking anymore, not to the leaves and not to  
us, we who have forgotten that when you touch the leaves of a morivivir they will close, that  
Vivir means to live and that the word morir comes first and that there are so many  
words for death in all languages that aren’t so different from each other and that a  
xenopus frog isn’t so different from a coqui and that I came up with five new ways to say I love  
you to her just this morning as she stayed sleeping in bed, her face inches from the 
Zen garden I bought to remind her that there is always enough time for prayer when you’re in love. 



Enough already. 


 
The women in my family have healing hands, healing fingers 
and I couldn’t tell you why, but I touch every poem with my English hands first. 
But when I spread my fingers over the aching belly of my beloved  
the words leave my lips 100% Spanish and fluent woman: 
Sana, sana, colita de rana, si no sanas ahora sanaras manana. 
Frogs don’t have tails anymore and there is no real need for Spanish in San Juan  
but the women in my family will still call you mija and say Dios te bendiga  
in a tongue you can’t suck dry no matter how many paper towels you throw into a crowd.  
 
The women in my family have strong hands, thick fingers, browned in the sun and stained  
orange with sazon and red con la sangre de sus dolores.  
Even my abuela still leaves bright spots in the chicken and forgets to turn the stove off, 
but she will never forget the sound of a pot that’s ready or oil that’s too hot or to always rinse 
the rice before cooking or the way that the rain speaks a different language here.  
 
It’s important to go slow when speaking la sana and to move your hands in circles  
and to use every language you have:  
heal, heal little frog’s tail, if you don’t heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow. 
My abuela will tell you that it doesn’t work in English and sometimes I believe her, 
but my hands are smaller and softer and they haven’t learned her pain yet and besides,  
my beloved likes the part about the little frog’s tail and I need her to understand me  
when I call for the colita de rana 
. 
Frogs don’t have tails anymore but the women in my country still have their healing hands 
and fingers, strong enough to hide their eyes from your country’s faces and our country’s  
violence, fired into the natives who, like my abuela, have not forgotten the number 4,645: 
cuatro mil seiscientos cuarenta y cinco: el número de personas que han muerto despues del huracán María. Your hands were not strong enough to hide it and I will not translate the pain. 
 
Las mujeres de mi isla have hands strong enough to pray, to heal, to hold the beads of a rosario softly, like they do the heads of their daughters and the hearts of their sons y dejame decirte, there isn’t a lie in the world that can escape a Boricua woman’s hands and corruption  
is just a fancier word for lies and corruption and la corrupción don’t sound so different 
and my abuela can understand both.  
 
My mother’s hands can call your bullshit with just one smack to the mouth, will fight for her children down to the quick of her nails, will fight to keep her last name because it’s theirs and fight to keep a home in a country she never wanted, but sometimes there is no strength left for the smarter options and when I was twelve years old my mother told me: 
“If I have to live under a bridge, you two are coming with me.” 
 
The women in my family have strong hands, healing hands, hands to hide us under the bridges,  
keep us from government corruption—I asked my prima about the riots and she spread her hand over the hair of her beloved son and she told me: “I am tired…” 
 
Las mujeres de mi isla tienen manos cansados, basta ya, basta. 
The women of my island have tired hands and they told me “enough already,” 
and I am warning you, there is nothing more dangerous than a country full of tired mothers.  
 
The people of my country have tired hands, sick of healing, and there aren’t enough frog tails  
in the world for what you have done and they are telling you: 
“Enough already. We have had enough.” 







































LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here