Dusk to Dawn
The sun, a ribbon of honey, spools
off the back porch where the cicadas buzz.
Summer’s last breaths drag themselves
hot and weary over the ayate fibers of my
grandmother’s cloak — hand-stitched from
sand-pruned palms, wrinkled with time.
A white-winged warbler shrieks into
the vast, empty horizon, its cries piercing
every orifice of canyon and cactus and smoke.
I blink — the slow indigenous clouds start to
crawl across a melting night sky. My mother,
a root tethered to this dry, hot valley, praying still
and silent over terracotta tile, in a language buried
under the graves of our ancestors, their voices
colonized by harsh desert winds and
white fists. I imagine my grandmother as
a girl, her mother and the mother before hers:
heels calloused from trudging onward,
miles and miles of dirt uprooted from their tears,
their memories, their hollowed homes. Livelihood
suppressed like our names in the history textbooks.
I imagine what it feels like to lie supine
at the sound of Spanish demands, survival
superseding instinct. Tongue bleeding with
silence, knuckles split open like the pounds
of indigo we harvested for white profit. From
dusk to dawn, searching for a mirage
of hope among blurred canyons, backs pinned
to the swords of conquistadors: soon, the land
bleeds with us. Now, my grandmother sits
quiet, as she has for almost a century, staring out
into smoky night, her wrists stiff as sourdough.
And I wonder, since when did we
become foreigners to the earth we bore,
nothing more than ghosts
rope-tied to stolen lands.
By Jeffrey Liao
Jeffrey Liao is a student at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey. He enjoys procrastination more than is healthy and is currently daydreaming about writing or eating (probably both).