Erika Ayón

An Orange Planet
Poem for my sister Yola

I sit at the table, run my fingers
along the circumference of an orange,
its tiny ripples smooth and soft. 
Pedro leads you into the bathroom,
locks the door behind you.  A small ray
of yellow light shines from underneath
the doorway. I hear whimpers, 
a fist on flesh.  I imagine you cling
to the shower curtain as you fall
onto the black and white linoleum floor. 
He orbits towards you.  
I spin the orange with my palms
on the surface before me, roll it
into bright orange circles.
I check on baby Oscar, his belly rises,
falls in small breathes.  I whisper
Cri Cri nursery songs into his ear.
After a while, Pedro comes out,
goes outside, sits under the porch light. 
You follow shortly after.  The veins
from your face and arms protrude,
your skin begins to darken.  I watch
as you shake the ice tray, ice cubes 
fall like comets onto a cloth
you wrap and apply to your bruises.
I approach you, offer you the orange,
the planet between my hands.

Verses for Lorena

1. I hold the phone to my ear.  On the other end you cry,
ask me to read something to you.   I grab The Secret Garden
but hesitate, this book can’t help you stay alive.  I reach
for the Bible, turn to Psalms 23, read it over and over 
until the scriptures hush your tears. 

2.  You tell me that they don’t let you wear socks to bed,
afraid you will hang yourself.  You talk about how the room
is pure white with only a bed with white sheets stitched
to the mattress.  That night, I dream that I visit you,
give you a box full of bright peacock feathers. 

3.  After weeks there, you send me a gift, a burgundy and pink
yarn doll with red felt lips and eyes, one of many craft projects
assigned to patients to fill their heads.   I hold the doll,
press my mouth against it to breathe life into it. 

4.  Too young to see you, I wait in the lobby.  The soda machine
in the corner buzzes like a billion bumble bees. I lie down
on the plastic chairs, close my eyes, become dizzy with the scent
of pine sol and alcohol.  I hear screams, wonder if it is you. 

5.  While you are gone, I read the red diary you leave behind.
Its lines filled with I don’t want to live, I took a bottle
of aspirin today but failed. The diary becomes holy.
At church, I recite parts of it like prayers. 

6.  Once out, you come home to visit, ask for the red diary.
You tear page after page, burn them over the stove top.
the scraps of paper flutter above my head like butterflies,
my fingers catch flames and ashes.      


How Sadness Spreads 

They say that when white spots
begin to appear on your skin.
It means you are sad beyond repair.
Everyone knows of someone. 

There is the woman my mom knew from PTA,
whose arms became spotted after her son
was killed by a car.  The sadness started
at her fingertips and crawled up her arms like ivy. 

I think about Norma, my neighbor from childhood,
at age thirteen she had patches all over her skin.
Something must have happened to her.  She must
have lost something, lost someone.   

Then there is the boy
who was born dark like mahogany.
At age three he witnessed his father die,
now his skin looks like white speckled sand. 

I look out for these signs of deep sadness,
check my fingertips every morning. 
I’ve become wary of discolored spots on my arms,
dismiss them as sun spots but deep down inside 

I fear that they must have sprung from that night
in August I cried uncontrollably for no reason,
how I write love letters that are never mailed,  
how I board the wrong bus in order to lose my way.


Erika Ayón emigrated from Mexico when she was five years old. She grew up in South Central, Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English. She is currently working on her first collection of poetry. She was selected as a 2009 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow and has taught poetry to middle and high school students throughout Los Angeles. 

© The Acentos Review 2013