The 2River View 27.3 (Spring 2023)

Xochiquetzal Candelaria

The Condition of Mothering

I feel it move within me, a roll
and a flutter, a ball within the ball
of me, months after I’ve given birth,
then years later, I feel the same phantom
kick-roll. My whole uterus
remembering or the spirit
settling the shadow self,
an absence that is present.

Our present moment with nothing
to offer but itself---all entrance.
I feel it sometimes
when sunlight breaks through
tree leaves, leaving me warm along
my forehead and down one arm
and for a moment I am not
going or coming.

I am aware of the dust underfoot
and how my shoes leave impressions.
The boy in the Sonoran desert
said he found water by following
footprints, found the little makeshift
house that another boy, a few years
older, had left.

How we enter
our days depends so much on
how we take leave in the night--right now
I sleep with my one year old daughter
and sometimes her breath halts
and I try to match my breathing to hers
hoping she can catch hold of it, my uterus
beside her uterus, the buds of her body
rolled tight like a fist.

Muddy Flags

I imagine my first-grade teacher by a fire with whiskey and water and
Akhmatova's love poems. I tell her we maintain the gifts: the sparks in
the dark, the roads she built in our wet green brains, tell her we know
the reports are wrong, that we understand how tenderly she turned
pages, how she didn’t laugh as we misspelled words we had only heard,
as we belted off key songs for school plays, wore our paper hats with
pride, red juice smeared across our lips. I tell her she lives on in our
cells, in our hands that remember how to reach out and hold another’s
as we circle up repeating: A woman throws roses into the waves and we
rise and wave.

Xochiquetzal Candelaria is the recipient of awards including an NEA Fellowship, and her book, Empire, was published by University of Arizona Press. Her work has appeared in The Nation, New England Review, Tin House, and other magazines. Candelaria teaches at City College of San Francisco and is currently living in Pontevedra, Spain.

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