Back to Issue Forty-One

My Mother is a Garden



In the backyard, my mother plants strands of razzleberry
fringe flowers. Next door the chartreuse golden feather
fare well. Before I am born, my mother is acquired
by the United States—coerced by some American
zodiac dream she fled to Los Angeles and decades later
she still withholds from speaking English, and only fertile
names of flowers have taken root. She is luminous. Her hair,
a blackish grey against the philodendron, long and parted
in the center. I lose her in the shade of overgrown impatiens
hanging onto the hillside behind the house. The horizon waves
in lines of barberry and nettles, silver waves of wild deer grass.
I have not spoken to my mother in years. Today I surprise her
with a visit and in the window’s glow I watch her work.
I have taken the shape of her hips.


Ruben Quesada, Ph.D. is editor of Latinx Poetics: Essays on the Art of Poetry (2022), author of Revelations (2018), Next Extinct Mammal (2011), and translator of Exiled from the Throne of Night: Selected Translations of Luis Cernuda (2008). His writing appears in Harvard Review, Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, and Ploughshares. He has served as an editor and coordinator for The Rumpus, Kenyon Review, AGNI, Pleiades, Publishing Triangle Awards, and PEN America Literary Awards. He serves on the board of the National Book Critics Circle. He lives in Chicago.

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