Rigorous
Volume One, Issue 3



Tatiana Forero Puerta


We Moved to America

The year after Papi dies
Mami doesn’t take off
her midnight cardigan
with buttons from waist
to neck like ant soldiers
invading a wasp carcass

each ant carries
a dismembered part: wing,
stinger, quarter thorax
on its hump the way Mami

hunches & holds
old sock rags
dust & bleaches

stains off strangers’ toilets
drags laundry loads on her
lumbar—someone pays her

to wash their sweat-stained sheets
she carries too the severed segments
of what we got left:

albums with fading
pictures our sepia faces brighten
with years, our features’ soft
rose petals,
Papi’s acoustic
guitar with the broken
head barely holding on
by the A string

she still wears his T-shirt
to bed, smells it before prayers
she holds inside her
all our lost dreams,
outside, two brown baby girls,

overdue rent, the light bill & still
none of us speaks any English.




Unclaimed

Like helium balloons slowly deflating
we bounced from foster to foster
children with surnames
of the dead,

liminal & sacred
purgatory & …

No one wants a child
they can't see
their own face in,
mirrors of specters
reflect only shadows.




Seriously?

I was fourteen and ripe as an avocado.
I pushed my son out, clutching to the horse stall,
cooled my brow with cow-spat water
from the troth. No thanks to any of you—
and somehow I go down in history as meek & mild.

May I remind you: my kid fed fish to the poor
and turned over the temple tables to expose
the corrupt—who do you think raised him
to stand against power while powerless?
To withstand the devil dressed in drag beckoning
in a desert filled with flesh, food & water?

Of course the twelve years missing from the canon
are those I spent molding him, my hands seeped & sore
like potter with red clay: his heart was tender and pliable as dough
but make no mistake it was me who wiped
shit-butt, got puked on, calmed the 4am fevers.
Me who kept him warm, clothed him
to become anyone’s savior.

Have you ever spent time with
a teenager with a god-complex? Christ
or not, they are insufferable—
they must be taught to multiply
fish gently, to walk on water
with the sternness of a redwood,
the softness of the first autumn leaf
landing on the ground, almost imperceptible.

Jesus, Einstein, nor Dr. King were birthed without a mama
dilating 10cm—the size of a goddamned bagel!—
withstanding nipple pain. Let me tell you:
Give me waterboarding over that shit.
A mama who planted the seed for their growth,
stabbed repeatedly in the sweaty, aching pruning1.

Two centuries later we continue to yank nine-
inch nails out of our children’s festering wounds,
pick their limp bodies off
government-sanctioned crosses,
wipe each limb & digit clean
with the salty salve of our tears.
And yet we are barely named2

We are ghosts only seen by other similar
specters who linger in the background
proud & still weeping.



1 and still I am a footnote

2 —still we are a footnote


Tatiana Forero Puerta: "I am originally from Bogotà, Colombia. My poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Able Muse, Licking River Review, Moon City Review, Juked, Hawai’i Pacific Review and elsewhere. A finalist for the Blueshift Journal Prize for Writers of Color, I have also been nominated for Best of the Web, and am a 2017 recipient of the Pushcart Prize. I hold a dual BA in philosophy and comparative religion from Stanford University and an interdisciplinary MA from New York University. I live and teach in NY."




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