After Poverty, Witness
I have to find a savage distance, selfish, un-selved, when I think of my
mother’s too-slim cheek spattered with chicken blood, her sister’s old shoes
almost too small, already, on her long, thin feet and ornamented with amorphous
slicks of cooking oil and stringy garlands of shit and feathers. In a family
of many shades of brown, many turns of blue-black coiled curl, her arms
are freckled, her hair is straight and lank. It’s as if whatever dilution
happened at conquest decided yellow eyes would suit a child in home-sewn
overalls and no English to speak of until 6 or 7, decided this girl would need
gold to shoulder the childcare that comes with six siblings and a sometimes
single mother. Some ridiculous colonizer idea of strength. She met my father
shelving books at the ENMU library and he too knew what it was like to share
a bed with all those sibling limbs, heads and feet in opposite directions every
other one and no relief. Kindred poverties. An unsparing overture to romance.
Later, she carried those books behind the refrigerator to read in peace
the warm buzz a shield through the soles of her feet, the curl of her toes until
we, my brothers and I, we who had everything we could ever need and more
became witnesses in the day-old bread aisle to that special insight that knows
how a soft white roll is a treasure if frozen soon, just in case. They are jewels,
my mother’s experiences, viscid stones that drip on wire. They bite her still-small
wrists and fill her buttercup eyes. Eyes that sweep the terrified sawdust, wet
and cold. My inheritance, too. I, who have everything barely dreamed of under
those towering New Mexico skies. Their brutal dust. Their conquering adornments.
The old killing stump. The defiled hatchet in the yard. Everything. Even this beauty,
this lack of pale want in my own velvet eyes born from feathers sticky with gold.
By Felicia Martínez
Felicia Martínez is a writer and artist born and raised in eastern New Mexico. Her deep love of experimental story structures and points of view in poetry and fiction carry over to her creation of otherworldly images and environments in her print work. She holds both an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Stanford University and presently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find her on Bluesky as @feliciafm.bsky.social and on Twitter as @feliciafm.