urgent mail

I want to lift up my prayers in little navy clouds. I want to tie ribbons and balloons so they fly up high, higher, highest. I want to knock on all the houses, press a pen against their hands, and encourage them to write their petitions down. It’s okay, I’ll guarantee, I’ll send them on their way for you. I want to fill bags and bags with these, until the weight is so overwhelming it bends my back and makes my knees tremble. I want to take the weight upon me and load it on each messenger cloud.

I once stepped onto a dream where this was true.

It concluded with rain.

The day we killed the hippopotamus

It takes the death of an innocent, a vulnerable, an exposed, to shake a nation’s sensibilities. The canon ball that sparks indignation, wails demanding justice.

There is something about the deliberate, cruel murder of an animal that seems to indicate humanity has truly evaporated.

Husband asphyxiating wife, mother drowning child, father raping daughter, friend shooting friend, enemy dismembering enemy. Fourteen lives slaughtered daily, selected with the same carefree attitude one chooses tomatoes at the supermarket. We are not shaken. Our filth has trickled so far down the gutter we no longer bother to clean it. Occasionally, a child. Still untouched, still unmarked by the deranged spark that seems to categorize us. The crouching demon with the spidery legs has not sat on their right shoulder yet.

It takes an animal. The antithesis of human.

It takes an animal. The one deemed brainless. The one deemed soulless.

It takes an animal to remind us we are worse than rabid animals.

It takes an animal to remind us we are an infection, and we are spreading, and we are contaminating, and we are oozing pus, leaving a trail of gangrene.

Our labels for humanity are all askew.


Read all about the murder of Gustavito, a hippopotamus living in El Salvador’s national zoo. (Links en Español)

An Ode to My Colonizer(s)

The crime was not abortion.
You forcefully ask to keep us, an exotic menagerie,
our skins more colorful than your bruises.
You expect us to be grateful,
to thank you for your benevolence.
Fireworks for passing humanity.
It was a difficult birth,
your legs, squeezed tight throughout labor
almost accomplishing suffocation.
Perhaps it was never abortion,
just a prayer for infanticide.
Be we slithered out, covered in blood, covered in you,
knowing that once cleansed, the umbilical cord severed, we’d find
what a wretched caretaker you were,
dropping us on our head at the first sign of autonomy,
malnourished, naked, mute, and nearly washed out by the elements.
It was not abortion.
It was not infanticide.
All along it was assisted suicide.
But let’s be civil, shall we?
After all, isn’t that your parting gift?
civility cloaked in inflation, civility cloaked in poverty, exploitation, false freedom,
a reassurance that we should wish to be
you
but never
You.
If it’s not you then where do we seek us?
Did you not steal that too?

N. Saravia

A poetic response to Frantz Fanon’s “On Violence” from The Wretched of the Earth

mute

There are many things I should not tell you. They’re trapped, these things, between the mattress and the wall, underneath the sink, molding in the fridge.

There are many things I want to tell you. They’re out in the open, these things, on top of the night table, next to the sticky notes that are always blank, next to the toilet paper, soggy from the shower.

There are many things you take and forget. You hear them, these things, and I see you mouth them back at me in cruel remarks, jokes that make no one else in the room laugh. Have you noticed? It’s just the two of us now. Left.

There are many, many, things: trivial, crucial, elemental, monumental, revolutionary, prophetic, catastrophic. I cannot call them things. They clutter the ceiling, and the backyard, and the garage.

Place them inside my left eyelid at closing time. Swallow them like you’ve swallowed the entirety of everything.

I venture in the sun. The sand, it seeps into my clothed feet, trapped next to my thumb.

There is no breeze, just the torment of shifting particles, an illusion to my physical demands.

Yesterday I crawled next to a weeping dune, I slept until my eyelids burned and I could drink my tears. I was sure to die, I sure hoped to die.

I walk today, as yesterday, and the land only expands. My name returns to me in drops and mist; I want to swallow all.

Three wishes: 1) Stop; 2) Return; 3) Repeat

monsters

There is a monster in Daniel’s house. But you cannot see it. Even if you try, even if you beg. It will not show itself. Not out of shyness, not out of mischief. Out of complacent rage: it has already won.

Daniel does not need to see the monster to know it lurks, sits, stands. Does not need to see the sunken eyes or broken jaw, does not need to meet it in the bathroom mirror when everyone sleeps. The monster does not need to crawl behind him when he dashes up the stairs. It will not frighten the dogs into midnight barking.

No, it’s not a monster in visions and bloodied walls, in moving chairs and misplaced bodiless moans.

The monster comes in the violent whims of broken communication, in the rage fits and the rising spleen; the altered humor and laughing tongue, the taste of murder toward someone that must be loved out of social obligation.

It comes in clenched lips, screams, and accusations. It comes in headaches, vomits, and dismembered bodies when Daniel goes to sleep.

It’s a murmur in Daniel’s lungs, nestled next to the quick-pumping artery. It’s a weight on Daniel’s left shoulder, straining his neck enough to blaze his already flaking mood. Like snow. Snow that falls on aching, sneeze-driven bodies.

Will he someday fear the monster that walks on four legs, that jumps on the roof and sticks to the wall, that throws ash in his food and sulfur in his family’s breath? Daniel does not fear its claws which bare bits of skin hanging from the tips, skin taken from his scalp; no cease to the itch.

Daniel does not fear its voice, a mixture of the entities inside hollow organs, how it can quickly imitate love, care, tenderness, only to transform into spiders walking on faces. Daniel does not need to fear its monstrous appearance to fear all that it is. Daniel does not need a nightmare when it lurks outside his eyes, with lullabies in dirty pillows and foreign stares in unpolished glass.

He does not fear it, it happens naturally.

In memoir

If you could mummify my body, what parts would you scrape out first?
My brain to keep my memories?
My hands to ensure all talent is stunted?
My feet so I may never travel in the afterlife?
My heart to shut out all regrets?
My lungs to ensure all sighs end?
You.
You I wouldn’t mummify. Wouldn’t wrap up for preservation. I’d burn you in the pyre to ensure all of earth eventually breathes a part of you.

Let the gangs speak

Conversations centered on Central America’s smallest country inevitably lead to discussing gangs and violence. An infectious synonym, perhaps, the legacy that burdens us after twelve years of civil war, and many more invisible wars—the political, social, class-centered wars.

Recently, Salvadoran digital newspaper El Faro wrote a piece on the “second” creation and implementation of the Peace Accords. Initially signed in 1992, the Peace Accords are– in my humble Salvadoran opinion– aspirin for someone suffering from hemorrhagic dengue (read: a big mistake). Let’s reflect on this for a second: I am not averse to peace. I am not cynically stating that engaging in critical dialogue with all parties involved cannot shed positive results, but I am stating that we should be analyzing who sat at the table last time, and who will sit at the table this time.

El Faro’s piece brings up the guest no one invited but is fervently requesting to be included in the VIP list: gangs. Reading this piece, I felt a spark of change within me. My entire academic research focuses on exploring youth radicalization, and gang recruitment in order to implement effective gang prevention strategies that will protect, teach, our youths to critically assess what the gangs are offering them versus their own potential. But I digress.

The gangs requesting to attend this round table is a monumental moment in our Salvadoran history, one we should not blink away from, lest we want to become the shrimp the current washed away (don’t these idioms sound extremely ridiculous in English? But heed my words, brethren, for they speak truth).

Let the gangs speak. Allow them a voice that often gets dehumanized alongside their tattooed bodies by sensationalized news, biased governments, and damaging classism.

Are the gangs free of guilt? Should we pity them? A complicated question to which I give the unsatisfying answer of “no”. Gangs have cut wounds so deep into our nation it will take true democracy and critical pedagogy to recover, and even then we will bear nasty scars. Gangs control our streets, a whisper of paranoia every time we leave our homes. They control our youth with promises of identity, protection, and a future that our governmentS (All of them. Absolutely all of them) have failed to deliver.

Silence does not make a problem disappear. If anything, it allows it to simmer, to reach boiling point (have we not reached that point already? The murder rates flow like the lava in the dormant volcanoes that surround us).

Let the gangs speak. Give them the stage to present themselves to us (all of us, because for far too long our policies have been decided through dirtied windows. We demand- we need- transparency).

And what if we don’t like what they’ve got to say? Then, the first step has been given and dialogue can commence.

Frantz Fanon once stated that violence can only be challenged , overpowered, with violence. I love Fanon because he unchains the colonized mentality in me, but I fear what his reality would make to our bruised nation. So, let them speak. For too long we have attempted to duct tape their mouths, ignorant to the fact that their mouths are not their most dangerous weapon, but the guns and knives they wield.

What are our political parties afraid of by bringing gangs onto the negotiating table? Fraternizing with the enemy? (calm down, Ron Weasley). Forgive my scoffing but, if we are afraid of having criminals at that table we’ll end up with a very empty table.

To the United Nations, our benevolent mediator, let me say this: you cannot evaluate a nation’s security by excluding a crucial instigator of said security. You cannot uphold human rights if you do not consider the way gangs are both the violated and the violating of said rights.

Let’s not repeat the first Peace Accords. Let’s not prescribe an aspirin for an illness that requires surgery.

 

 

 

Xenoglossophobia

Language is the poison, and my mind became the antidote
tainted in a stuffy elementary classroom
Oppression deposited in a 10 year old mind (minds. we were so many)
No one will take me- us- seriously with a heavy accent, you said
and you thought you did us a favor, gracias
It’s uneducated.
I loved school, then, foolishly assuming it was the crib of education
I feared the
uneducated.
I mutilated my tongue to sound like the world wanted me to sound–
a promised future, a prestige
the accomplishment of imperialism
Fear lulled around my rolling r’s, my strong y’s.
Setting aside the Spanish that by divine intervention was sprinkled in my veins
at birth.
Coveting a foreign language,
the one I use now to get your attention
your politically corrected respect.
This elementary classroom, this education blinding my eyes with another country’s flag
planting a rifle in my hands
Shoot. Let your aim be culturally bland
Murdering a barely grown persona
Suicide.
You congratulated the death with diplomas.
You failed to tell me that this respect and praise would end like Cinderella’s charm at the strike of brown skin.
Que tonta (it sounds more natural when I simply call you a fool)
Now, you are offended
Now, when you listen to my tongue—the one you designed—denouncing your
h a t e
Now, when you expect me to mute myself because I’m different, because I made it, because I’m not    t h e m
que tonta
Now, when my voice lures you into confidence, when you open your
baby blues
Your English is so good!
Now, when you step back as if slapped at my response
I would drain out all of these words to retrieve what was rightfully mine
You wanted English.
Now, I will force you to listen.

N. Saravia