Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez

Ramirez-Chavez, Gabriela Bio Pic

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Abuelita Rosa Dreams of Men in Olive


Una vez lo soñé… unos hombres de vestido olivo lo tenían a él. Y se traspasaba… por eso yo digo que el sufrió para 

morir, porque saber que castigo les daban. Cuando vivíamos en Santa Marta, yo soñé que se traspasaba las paredes. 

Se entraba allí con nosotros, por las paredes se traspasaba. Yo dije, Hay Dios…Y soñaba que lo tenían unos 

hombres de vestido olivo a él, y entonces hablaba conmigo y decía, “No tenga pena, Mamá, no tenga pena. Que no le 

de pena.” Entonces ya nos pasamos a otra casa. Como a los once días me busco, seguro estaba ya entregando su alma. 

Se me presento. Lo que me dijo se me olvidó. Iba bien peinado, bien trajeado, su traje precioso, sus zapatos brillaban. 

Hasta estrellitas echaban sus zapatos. Entonces yo lo quería abrasar y se hizo para atrás. Y se fue, se fue yendo. Se 


Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez is a Guatemalan/Central American poet. She holds a B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Acentos ReviewKweliPlath Profiles, Third Woman Press 3’s Inaugural Anthology, and elsewhere. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Literature with a Creative/Critical emphasis at University of California, Santa Cruz. There she is working on a collection about her maternal uncle’s disappearance from Guatemala in the late 1970s, from which these poems are excerpted. Her website is



Yo le conté a una Hermana… Ella dijo, “Dios le enseño el sueño para que sepa que Jesús se lo llevo.



5 Tías and 5 Tíos


My family tree is bigger than the other kids’ because it is wide with 5 tías and 5 tíos, including the 

one Mamá doesn’t talk about. He was very handsome and loved The Beatles. The girls loved him 

and he protected her from bad men. He would tell his friends, “Somos cuates, pero cuidadito con 

mi hermana.” They all respected him.


So when I made the family tree for school I drew a thick brown trunk to hold everyone up together, 

with the Ramirezes on one side and the Chavezes on the other. But real close to each other. And my

 hermanas and me all the way at the bottom. Not like in real life, with my hermanas and tíos in 

Guatemala and us over here.


I drew lots and lots of limbs. I cut out pictures of everyone’s faces, and pressed them flat on the 

green paper strips Mamá glued on for leaves. Until I was left with one empty space. “Falta la foto 

de mi tío.” I opened the album like a crocodile’s mouth and realized I’d never seen what he looks like.


When Mamá Told Me


I didn’t understand how someone could just be somewhere and then poof away. I thought it was 

like when the earth opened up her mouth and swallowed bad people in the Bible, including the kids. 

Mamá would tell me when I was disobedient, and hit me lightly with a wooden spoon, and say how 

good I have it because I wasn’t born in that time. Arnoldo must’ve disappeared like that.


Or maybe it was like when I felt so small I wanted to disappear. Like when Ms. H asked me what 

Mamá does for a living and I told her I didn’t know. She looked down at me through her brown 

oval glasses, blinking her little eyes, and said, “Well, don’t you want to know what your mom does?” 

She waited a million and two years for a reply, and all I felt was the river running up inside, pressing 

behind my eye balls, because I didn’t want to say, “My mom cleans houses, big houses, not like the 

one-bedroom we share, where Papi was this close to being hurt by the cholos. She scrubs bathrooms

 and toilets on her knees, like a holy prayer, not like the other moms that stay home.” I wanted to tell 

her I love Mamá, and I felt ashamed for feeling ashamed, but didn’t say nothing because it was too 





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