Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes

HARRhodes SelfPortrait - Version 3


Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes is a queer, mixed-race, second-generation Colombian immigrant, writer, scholar, artist, and activist. Her poetry has been seen or is forthcoming in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Kudzu House Review, As/Us, Feminist Studies Journal, Nepantla, Yellow Medicine Review, Write Bloody’s ‘We Will Be Shelter’, and others. Her chapbook, The Inheritance of Haunting, is due out by Raspa Press in fall 2016. She currently lives in Brooklyn.


Azan, or

The Call to Prayer, or

Resistir es rezar que arrasamos el orden de arrancamiento, or

When the Sky Opens and I am Swallowed

(For Aneeta. For Fulan. For N.N.)


·      Between 1998 and 2014, over 6,000 undocumented immigrants died trying to cross the US-Mexico border.

·      Since 2001, the US has killed over 4 million Muslims in its global ‘War on Terror.’


And on the 6th day,

it rose from dust, this creature we call human,

and there in the folds of our nascent hearts were

the ingredients for a ferocious resistance; we thrashed and gleamed

in the giant’s eye.


It is written on the wall

that prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive,

and this reminds us that G-d is perhaps nothing but a Question.




I have stood in the valley, the pulsing city-heart,

purple dusking into moon-time,

the Azan ringing out, echoing down alleyways

as the last cups of Kewa wash down throats aching to hold the names of Allah

in the temple of the mouth. There, I have seen

the gravedigger’s eyes, his mouth full of the names

of every child he was forced to bury, alleged beasts of terror.


Fulan, Fulan,

What was your name?

What was your prayer?




I have stood at the edge of the desert, the wide sea of sun-driven madness,

Cacti dripping with lost rosaries, hung like holy, grieving tombstones

Marking the trail of lost shoes.




What did your mother call you?

What saint did you carry around your neck?

Who once lost sight of you while tending to laundry,

only to find you again at the table when supper was served?


Natalia Natalia,

the devil lost his poncho:


if you see it, bring it with you,


should you ever return.



Little Birds


They call them ‘paraquitos’

remniscient of little birds,

parakeets, like the ones

your neighbor’s abuelita

might keep hanging in a cage

near a window

and cover with a towel at night

for hushing.


The yield of paramilitaries

summoning women to the

unfathomable fathomable,

feeding a bullet

to husbands or fathers who clutch,

slitting the throats of girls who report

what was done to them and by whom, these

little children, little paramilitary birds, consequences

of rape in the intervals of dirty war.


Some left wingless to sleep, swallowed by the canyons,

to die of hunger or chill on hillsides,

by mothers who do not want them, cannot afford them

are afraid they are damned by the devil that forced its way

into their bodies, impaling their bloom

in broad daylight and terror,

some nicked from their nests, stolen in the seize of threat;

some with their mothers remain, spurned by

their communities who do not see their existence

as anything but contamination, social stain, ongoing threat of

harrowing days to come,

         or the tarnished agony of madness and memory,


                           of un-nameable things done,

                                    which must, however, be named.

(Who will otherwise tell their story

when they are silenced in the throat or heart?)


Birthed out of the vile, burnt in execrable flame

With barely a feather to wing their way, charcoal pariahs,

the wailing of torment a prefatory lullaby greeting

to this life

in the throes of nightmare

on the edge of a Cauca mountainside,

furnished with dismemberment

and the forced traversal of taboos.


These birds, little birds

Fluttering in the cage of combat,

near windows of unbreakable ache for

home and the tenderness

of milk and flowers,

little birds,

singing their own names in the key of lost,

fluttering, fluttering,

covered at night, interminable night,

with a fist and a gun,

for hushing.




The ache on the tongue of the grieving


shatters, splits, tears the mouth in two,

scars the belly beneath the thunder of lead and wailing,


licks the finger, investigating the air near the Line of Control

taste-testing for respite like rain, for night like anguish

battling kehwa down the throat over one lump of sugar for

esophageal wars carrying hostilities to the gut, & the swelling brick

wall rising against the trachea, like a mother’s wheezing lament

for the small limp body of her heart, birthed into the dreamless,



bellows in a squirming sleepless nightmare, haunted by

the torment of pliers to the teeth, the swollen eye

peering up at slivers of skin plucked by concertina & gripped

by the wall in brittle blood, the neighbor’s freckle descried

in the gleam of floodlights, wailing rage gurgling jaw, cut to the gum,


kisses the palms of children before the roof caves in, & knows

the strange accent of the dead is indecipherable,

though it echoes against the roof of our frayed and weary mouths.

© The Acentos Review 2016