Crystal Salas

Tongue Memoir
after Gloria Anzaldúa 

To live in the borderlands is to know ghosts,
you start hearing voices in inner ears and outside voices in outside streets in mid-
                                                     despues de eso, eres  solo.

When learning to conjugate in rote codes not vena cava pumpingbirthrightsangreblood
codes and
       those words
when I'm bringing them back to life in flashcards i can hear them whisper parece que
you've been gone a long time, mija grown a little bit older tus labios han hecho  cambiados
that your tongue muscle don ’t recognize maybe you've been twice
       parece que you've been hiding palabras under your tongue again
       until they dissolve.
To live in the borderlands means
you're constantly having a stroke in one language or another-
I reach to say "i see it between us”
this tongue action entre teeth instead producing
To live in the borderlands means
sometimes they see it in you and invite you in: que quieres comer?
sometimes they don't, and they don’t believe you and you are hungry.
To live in the borderlands means
you remember what it was like to ask for love in another language
but now, in a stale cavity of malformado "r"s, you only know how to want.
This tongue that thrashes for misshapen words to sound like rrosas is my borderland
I have been pouncing and painting and acrobat flipping in machinic English.
But this idioma, this lengua, gurgles half-thoughts,
still waits somewhere in an acidic stomach pit.
But each time it gets called up to read
       this tongue slashing of texture,
       this brain betrayal dam and body malfunction
       does not compute
quiero un entendimiento
       does not compute. 

The Beginning
para mi Abuelito
A mile in his shoes
translates into hundreds,
nestled in a rust brushed
truck bed,
following the guidance
of the North American Moon. 

Eardrums resting upon the pulses
of his shoelaces.
Dreams tucked into dirt crusted soles,
blanketed in chaotic
adolescent onyx curls.

The night,
a song of the dreamers,
their backbones clanking
on clapboard to the give of

America awaiting their arrival:
open arms that once curved
like Kerouacian roads. 

[Where am I supposed to put this

Melanchology this

Misguided Machismo this

Miseducated Suburb Mentality

this mental-fuck  mercury leaking out of crushed through glass?

All these times I’ve shamefully bitten into my tongue finding

the appropriate poem for ignorance-

spoken like a dough eyed shy-bird should. 

Where am I supposed to put these

wives’ tales these superstitions these Banda beats this hybrid hunger for history

ancestor blessings, my honest attempts at consuming the peppery mountains  between us? 

Serafin, you didn’t dirge your denim in the earth, memorize every cow stench fruit vegetable

and mineral on the California coast roadside,

damage your eyesight reading Sal-Paradise and Steinbeck in the dark,

dream of your first born son becoming a doctor,

teach your granddaughter about  Rivera’s back breaking calla lilies so she could be smart

and  go to college

and forget you

in the bottom line in

someone else’s idea of  la historia]

So quickly
we forget
the vessel of our origins, 

Always mistaking the beginning
of what  ever   was
as the parachute of our own
the primal scream
our mothers longed to hear
and understand.



We return from the hospital,
only the sweep of passing cars 
while our tongues freeze to language barrier ridges.
We can’t talk about it. 

A blush crystal rosary 
swings in the back of the car. 

From cheekbones to forehead,
we are traffic-lit mirrors. 

In their room,
she sits on pilling blue flannel.
Beside her,
a deep sheet dimple
of fifty years
he left it cold
somewhere, sterile linen
is warm. 

Esta noche
she shares her bed with the dust-coated
plush animals from my childhood,
the aftershave ghosts,
and me. 

Salas Crystal

Crystal Salas is a spoken word poet from Southern California. She received her B.A. in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2012. Her work has appeared in The Moorpark Review & Chinquapin (print) as well as in her first chapbook, The Body Memoir, which she sewed together herself. She is the co-founder of Atomic Tangerine Press, which curates “Poetry Solves Problems”, a bi-monthly literary variety show/community based in Los Angeles. This is her first online publication. 


© The Acentos Review 2013