Let me tell you about the place I come from, the ragged-road Texas
where every gas station means hot breakfast tacos wrapped in foil,
and every summer means brisket cooked so slow it falls apart,
because everything worth doing is worth doing slow
unless it’s driving, or sex,
both of which we do young and fast until someone stops us,
except for me, who starts driving late and starts dating never
because the only boys who talk to me do it to get good
at talking to girls. This is how I learn to fall in love
with people who will never want me back.
Where I come from there is Spanglish at every table.
We talk about my grandma’s diabetes and my grandpa’s
Little Debbies, the Evil Eye and the ways you can get it,
my uncle’s ex-wife lighting candles in their closet
to make him love her back. It is not a place for being right;
it’s for walking together over parking lots rainbowed with oilslick,
for the good music, and palm trees, and air that is so heavy.
We grow up playing war in woods trying to strangle us,
no diplomacy allowed. The peaches on the peach trees
can’t be eaten and the open grass is littered with cutting burrs,
which is how we learn nature is a trap and crank the AC.
You are amazed that anything can bloom here.
We grow up drought-season baths in two inches of water,
battered by the metronome of parch and storm.
We grow up penance for our bodies and the things they need;
there is never moisture when we want it but always poison ivy,
a sky looming with tragedy. This is how we learn to fall in love
with things that will never love us back.
In the Texas I come from, my Nandi is smiling at me for the last time.
“Mijita, you’re getting so pretty, the boys will never leave you alone.”
Her compliments are hand-me-downs you’re embarrassed to be seen in;
you are astounded that I managed to grow here. But I am a rosebush
from drought country, breathing chicken feather and snake guts,
letting thorns teach me to love my own blood. I’ve been nourished
by the crooked prayers that came before me, lifted by the lunatic cries
of white doves and the fan-blade wings of cockroaches.
There is one place in town to get a milkshake, and the exit signs
are the only green for miles. This is how we learn to let love find us
when it’s looking, how we soak it in like bread.