I’m a Ferocious Warrior

I’m a ferocious warrior

Don’t ask me what I’ve seen

I’m a ferocious warrior

don’t ask me to explain

I’ve learned so long to survive

I don’t know that I’ve seen

what could have been

I’ve walked and walked

and leaned In

I’ve read and read and thought I’d finally been

only to find that I was nowhere near

nowhere at all

You see

When you have been programmed to live

step by step

un dia a la vez

you forget

you don’t see

the life outside that cage

You don’t think what could have been

If I didn’t have to decide based on the need to


And yet one day

You realize

You are no longer working to feed

no longer walking to heed

the advice of ensuring

your children simply eat

One day you see

You have never broken through the feverish mucous

Shutting your eyes shut

to possibility

Until you feel the weight of the future

of possibility

Of Choice

you never had

you never knew

and now beckons

What Will You Do Now that You Taste

the Weight of Freedom

to ponder

the weight of Choice?

You’ve outrun paycheck to paycheck

You’ve outlived the warfare of your youth

You’ve outgrown the stories of

Making It

You’ve Made It

You’ve Made it to


You stand at cliff’s edge

and you realize as you are fallling



You realize you’ve only made it to


What will your choice be?

COVID Grief: Grieving Sudden Death

On Wednesday night I got news over text. The paternal grandmother of my oldest girls (my ex-MIL) passed away from COVID.

The group text sent me on a tailspin. At first I was confused reading her name, no reference to her relationship to me. I first thought it was someone else and then realized, no, no, it’s her.

Reading those words in a group text made me feel naked, blindsided. It felt callous. Cold. Cruel. Sad.

I couldn’t process her death. I barely got it out when I told my daughters that this woman who was their grandmother, but with whom they had not had a relationship with in 13 years, since they were 2 years old, had died suddenly. They looked at me in a mix of blankness and confusion. I understood and yet I felt even more at a loss for what I should be feeling.

I tried to talk about it with my partner but couldn’t get more than a few words out before wanting to shut down again and not think. I avoided thinking about it by working as soon as I woke and cooking and cleaning when done with work.

Then not until four days later in the privacy of a Saturday was I no longer able to hide from her. Every time I closed my eyes I saw her face. Looking grim, her image floating right above me.

I allowed myself to think of her and slowly was able to separate thoughts of her from the trauma her son caused me.

I thought about how she’d welcomed me into her home when I married her son. Her willingness to embrace me, to make me feel like a daughter. To make me feel what no one else had, like I belonged. Thinking of her brought back aromas of Baja style fish tacos, crema, salsa, and homemade tortillas. Everything lovingly made from scratch over chisme in the kitchen. The grim face was replaced by an open mouth, head tilted back, deep throated and free laugh as I joked with her in the kitchen cooking side by side. Her face was plaintive as she spoke to me about how she was doing and managing her pain. Her face smiling lightly as I told her how about my all day sickness during pregnancy. Her face alight holding her grand daughters, showing me the dresses she made for them. The beautiful rag dolls she made and I helped her sell at work. Her face angry when I left her son. Her face in hard judgement asking why I couldn’t make it work? Her face embarrassed and apologetic when she realized all he’d done.

I started walking into the memories and with each face, a cry would come. A shy cry at first, afraid to release the emotion. Then tumbling over each other, grasping for space and breath. And then full force sobbing for what felt like hours. I cried until my face felt sore from throbbing and shaking. I cried until I couldn’t see through my swollen eyes. I cried until I could see her face and feel peace.

Yesterday, I woke up still puffy but also full of purpose and hope. She was at peace. Her voice that had been with me, imploring, judgmental, and kind – was released. I opened all the windows and door and lit Palo Santo – breathing in the sweet aroma and exhaling the fumes of a strong llanto. I gave the house a deep clean, buffing out my remaining tears, sweeping out all dust and remnants of fear.

I won’t be able to go to her funeral. She died in Tijuana, MX where she lived. It’s not safe to travel and it’s not safe for me to see her son. This is the grieving I am able to do.

This is the grieving that I can allow myself to do for now.

Pain Tolerance

When I was a little kid I took great pride in having a ‘high pain tolerance’. If I fell (which happened a lot in my slippery high-heeled cowboy boots), got into a fist fight with my male cousins (never one to back down), or burned myself in our outdoor disqueras – I would grit my jaw and swallow the searing pain and let it pool in my stomach. Let it sit there like a dare to see how long I could hold it without getting light-headed. I dug my nails into my palm or pinched the inside of my upper arm to transfer the pain and feel present in what I was actively doing to myself, for myself.

When I brought up stress at work, severe PMS depression, or struggling in general, my doctors waved it off. Not one heard me. When my ex-husband threw a heavy sound system and broke my toe, the ER doctor removed my nail and started giving me stitches as I flinched and sweated until they asked if it hurt. They didn’t even think to check if I had been administered pain numbing medication and I didn’t know that asking was an option. The same happened after a vaginal birth that required stitches. I didn’t want to be a bother. I thought it was a test to my abilities. As a mother of three children, thrice I said, “No drugs. I want to experience everything.” But really I was afraid of seeking comfort.

As I grew older, this “high pain tolerance” was nothing more than an old belief and voices that said, “Don’t cry! Why are you crying?! I should be crying!”, “Crying is for funerals”, “Callate llá!”, “Don’t tell anyone.” I internalized these voices and messages. I believed that I didn’t have the right to show emotion nor the “luxury” of expressing my pain.

For a long time I believed I didn’t feel physical pain like others. I had a shield, a super power that would make me an impenetrable spy (hey, I dream a lot!).

I didn’t know it was okay to admit to feeling pain.

Then with each birth came a storm of postpartum depression that engulfed me, leaving me unmoored in a treacherous sea of feeling nothing, unprompted tears, feeling like a live wire, raw emotions, unsolicited trauma memories, and a pain so excruciating it hurt to breathe. I finally went to therapy.

The only difference between me saying my pain is a 5 in the pain scale compared to your 10 is that I have been trained by harmful behaviors and neglect to eat and hide my pain. You have been cared for when you fall, when you get burnt, when you are emotionally devastated. You know it is natural to feel pain and you expect to be comforted.

I didn’t know that it was okay – as a human being – to express how much I was hurting.

I didn’t know that seeking comfort is not selfish, not a weakness.

After four years of therapy I learned to ask myself, “What would you do if this was happening to [insert my child’s name]?” Only in this manner could I allow myself to empathize with myself. Only in this manner could I understand how much pain I was in.

On Wednesday morning I was out for my daily walk waiting on an iced latte and croissant, feeling giddy and abuzz with the impending inauguration, and feeling in control and in awe of my life.

I was notified of my younger brother’s arrest for one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

I started choking on spontaneous sobs swallowed by old pain denial mechanisms and trying not to pass out. I didn’t want my partner to see me, much less the strangers walking right by me to get coffee. I felt rage at their rudeness. Didn’t they see that I was hiding – away from the coffee kiosk? Couldn’t they go around?! Couldn’t they see I was failing and trying hard to hide this – to close this ocean of pain threatening to undo me?

I am in pain.

For most of the last week I have teetered between sobbing, feeling empty and impotent, and white hot rage.

I’ve leveraged all of my tools from therapy to remain present. To keep being a mother. To keep being an employee, a wife, a friend, a person. What has been constant is this heavy weight of deep pain that makes me want to do anything to stop it.

On the outside I look the same.

I look ‘fine’.

But I am not fine.

I do not have a “high pain tolerance.” Brown and Black people do not have a different way of feeling pain. We feel the same pain. We have just had to hide it to survive.

But surviving is not enough. I need to deal with this pain so I can focus on helping my brother. I need to release some of this pain so I can breathe.

I need to stop hiding. See my pain. Respect my pain please. Respect that I am struggling and trying my very best.

Survivor’s Guilt It Is Not

I have survivor’s guilt. It’s survivor’s guilt. You are experiencing survivor’s guilt.

No, it is not.

It’s not survivor’s guilt when you feel off about you ‘making it’ and your family not.

It is not survivor’s guilt when you feel sick in your stomach that you have one foot in success and one foot in trying to figure out your family’s mess.

Why can’t you lift them out of this?

Why can’t they just…


Being so messy.

So wrong.

So guilty.

So easily captured by the rules and laws written surreptitiously to capture your own.

Survivor’s Guilt Is is Not

When the system was meant to oppress you and everyone like you

When you and those like you were thrown away as soon as you could suck

on Your mother’s tit

Full of nourishment

and bitterness

Survivor’s Guilt It Is Not

When the system is designed to embitter your mother

with back breaking work

with the stress of finances

with the stress of feeding you

with the stress of being carried away each time a siren is sung

A siren sings

Migra! Migra!

Weeeeooooo Weeeeeeoooooo!

Red lights

Blue Lights

Still make your insides cold

Arrest your body

As you realize

You have not survived

One foot in “success”

One foot in the mess

created by the system to pull you and those like you down



Until you drown


Yet bob up and find a way to peek



then break into a thundering run


From survivors

A burden

by a system’s maker

to feel guilty

for living



is not yours

It’s not you that

Keeps you

in Guilt and Wonder

Why me?

When you could ask, instead

why this?

Change this


I wonder how you are doing.

That part is easy, it could be a feeling of self satisfaction, wondering how you are. Where you are. If you are in the streets again or have a roof over your head.

But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt just the same. The wondering, the not knowing, The wondering if you know that I care and that I want to help. Truly help. Not like yesterday.

Because I still swallow the bile in my throat every time I remember coming to see you after you asked for twenty bucks. Groceries in tow, things I knew would not go bad. Because I’ve been there. Without refrigeration, squatting under a roof and four walls but no assurance for tomorrow. Gathering the bread, staples, things I hoped would last. Things I hoped would keep you alive, all the time wishing you’d come with me. Sweet brother of mine.

I love you.

And yet I’m too much of a coward to really wonder where you are. Because every time I see a statistic on the LA Times I wonder.

Is it you?

I devour the description, the tattoos, looking to see if they cover the beautiful surface of your face.

Your eyes, so kind. Those gorgeous almond-shaped eyes that haunt me every day. Those eyes that haven’t changed since you were two years old. I have loved you. Always, and yet, I know nothing of where you are and how you are.

And none of it should be your fault hermanito, and yet it seems only you pay for it all but we all pay. Over and over again I would pay, to have you safe. And those you love.

What is Abuse?

It was dark, in the middle of the night, and cold. I stood shivering in my thin polyester Scooby PJs peeking at the swollen, disfigured face of my aunt. Flashes of red, blue, and very bright lights pulled up into our driveway.

My aunt crying again with a new bruise blooming in her cheek and eye, swollen belly before her, carrying my cousin who at nine months in the womb was ready to burst into this world.

A beautiful dinner of carne asada, salad with generous slices of aguacate and tomate on top, and beans – always freshly made – on the side. As I inhaled the plate before me I heard the crack, centimeters from my ear. I coughed on flecks of porcelain dish that sprayed throughout the table once it ricocheted off the wall. The wall where my dad did not aim, my mom beside me. Was she beside me? Or standing by the comal warming tortillas as she always stood, her face hidden in the walls away from everything and everyone, away from him, from us.

The red eyes. The staggering walk and angry whispers to himself. To themselves.

All of these memories are jumbled and sometimes, hard as a I try – I can’t ensure I know whom was who and what I saw or what I was told – over and over again by my mother. Her stories. her account. Of me, my dad, my life – it’s hard to disentangle what I know to be true to what I hope I can convince myself happened, the happen she wants, her truth I hope for.

Velour pants, copper-colored, matching velour jacket hugging my body. Curled hair after hours with a curling iron, glossy lips and my eyelashes curled. I pulled the jacket down to cover the thin strip of skin exposed every time I stood up straight. I’m ironing his shirt and as I turn it over to him, I’m not sure what happens. I go back to the bed curling the last strands of hair and he makes a comment about Who Am I Dressing For? And then there’s the smell of burning flesh, the iron stuck against my hip, an angry red strip. He’s crying and I’m trying not to implode from wanting to run away but having nowhere to go. DJ is loud and everyone is drinking and dancing at my mom’s house. Oh You Know How Clumsy I am! I wave off the burn that is beginning to blister but I don’t cover it.

I can’t bring myself to share more than that.

The shame, the shame, the shame.

Shame of having failed at marriage. Of not putting up with it, of not being better, or good enough to deserve better. The oily feeling of failure sticking to your skin, the fear that your pores are emanating a stale smell of desperation. The feeling of having to depend on only yourself when you feel so broken and bone tired. The angry words of disappointment and disgust of others for not staying. Prostituta. Cualquiera. Mujer de la Calle. Desgracia.

And those two little faces looking up at me wondering, What Next? In our car in the cold nights, bundled in their car seats. The constant prickling of tears that refuse to spill because that’s not a luxury you can afford.

It’s taken me years to forgive myself for leaving, for failing. Even now, against all logic, I feel guilty, guilt intertwined with incredulity at How Did I Get There in the First Place? I left that abusive relationship only to fall into another that would take more a few more years to get out. To finally get out of the reach of the same cycle that preyed on my insecurities, my precarious financial situation, my housing instability, and low self-esteem. I grew up in an abusive home and walked on a path that naturally led me to another abusive home, this time as an adult. I was fortunate enough to have had the strength, the looks, the luck of getting out without the help of my family. The family that normalized that abuse and would gaslight me each time I had tried to leave. I’m out and have been out of abusive situations for years and all I can think of is how I would mourn that younger me if she were still in that basement being hurt in silence or in that loft in a luxury building being hurt in different ways. I mourn those still in those situations.

My aunt came to our house time and time again until she stopped. My aunt was a beautiful woman, deep caramel brown skin that shone whether day or night, and she loved me. How she married my uncle remains unclear except for the fact that she was the darkest of her family and was simply ignored and sidelined. She may have wanted what so many of us wanted, what I wanted, what my mother wanted and didn’t know how to give – she may have wanted to feel wanted. She stayed with this man her whole life, no matter how many times he beat her. No matter his illogical jealousy that resulted in a swollen lip, no matter how pregnant she was he still unleashed the same anger against her jaw and stomach driven by some slight he imagined she had committed by having another man open the door for her.

She tried to leave, she moved so many times. No one ever offered her safety and I don’t know that she even thought to ask. Each time, he seemed to find her. And each time a new child would fill her swollen belly which would make him kinder for a time.

I didn’t understand how lonely, how painful it was for her until I stood in her shoes. If you can, check in and be there for your friends and family who may in similar situations. And no matter how many times it takes them to leave, be there every single time.

While we Mourn We Should See

I wore the only dress I had that seemed semi-decent
It rolled up around my neck but hung dangerously low
so I pinned it
pin pin
fix it.

But nothing could fix your absence.
You were supposed to lift us.
I looked to you to save us.
You’d gone so far already…
Was it really that much to ask?

But mother effer, this life is so cruel
it doesn’t abide by our rules

Why won’t you do my bidding?
SO I won’t have to
Someone like you.

I grew up in East Los.
I thought I was used to this.
The loss.
The end.

But no,
don’t you see?
You left a large gaping hole.
And it hurts,
because try as I might
I won’t ever fill it for those that loved you.

How dare you?
How dare you?

New Words

You just don’t even see

You don’t even hear
How you not gonna see
me humpin a teddy bear
with my milk teeth
but you turn around
and walk out
Don’t even flinch and see you way out
What I gotta do to make you see?
But why I try?
Why I care?
for a woman who
don’t bother tryin’
don’t bother blockin’
what my future really be?
15 years flash forward
Baby on each hip
Who you think I learned from?
who you think I try to escape from?
Didn’t even know what that was
I thought college…College…College
It was my last line
Working at the office
Mervyn’s 11 pm – 3 am
Practically hoeing
on the metro
for cents on the dollar
tryin’ to be honest
trying to pay u bills
White man tender couldn’t see
No loan for you
keep workin’
keep hopin’
Thanks LMU
I’m lookin’ at you
But what you see?
what you hear?
That’s all you remember
Nothin’ to do wit you
My mama
the one who should be caring
the one supposed to love me
Love at first sight
Or was it Hate At First Sight?
couldn’t get that hanger hook on right?
Boyle Heights walls be translucent
Paper thin
paper white
You wish
But let me know somethin’
if White ruled your world
why you sleep with that creep in me?
I thought I was garbage
Why you think I try those pills
and not one
but two and three
and more
was not enough?
Lying in that bed
And all you and he could ask
What They Gonna Think?
Hell hole you had me livin in
Hell hole you seemed so content with
But I know now
I know different now
That hate you spilled
is me
Sad for you
but I love me
I could keep going
but only a lifetime can be told
and I’ve known
one or three

Memories of a Daughter of Immigrants

My father is an immigrant. He crossed the Mexico/US border as teenager, on his own, to find another life. My father is from a small, rural, town in Mexico. We live in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country. The Second Largest City in the Country. His town’s population hovers around 1,000 people. Los Angeles’ population hovers around 3.5million.

Can you even imagine the difference? My high school had a population of 5,500 students. My freshman class, at 1,500 students, was larger than his town’s population. But don’t worry. My senior graduating class magically pared down to half of his town’s population to 500.

I could tell you about MY memories from the first time I visited Mexico, the first time we traveled to his town. But I’d rather not. I’d rather focus on my dad.

Can you imagine being 18 and leaving your town, your state, your country, your mother, your brothers, your sisters, your father, your mother tongue, your culture, your identity, your pride…All behind?

Can you imagine jumping on trains, finding  a way across the desert, finding a way across. Across. A hostile crossing.

Can you imagine –


so Painful that it cuts into your being,

cuts you down.

Every rejection, every categorization, every generalization,

Every Migra Threat.


Fear so cold that it freezes your blood on its tracks.

Fear like an ice pick piercing your heart.

Fight or flight.

Can you imagine ignoring both and choosing instead to


Keeping your head down. Smiling. Paying taxes. Ignoring condescension.

So that one day you would have children, your own family, and hope to –


To believe that they could break the chains of fear because they Did Not Belong to

Anyone but America.

America the Free.

Be Free.

And they came, and they came, and they came, and they

Will Continue to Come

whether you care for it or not.

Whether you care for it or not.

They will come. As you did.

And they will borne others like Me.



Howling to Emptiness


I’m howling.

But no one seems to hear.

I’m hurting, but I don’t seem to feel.


Self-serving, legitimate action, Stupidity, willful ignorance – who can tell the difference anymore.

When I lashed out in pain at those who had voted for Trump I received admonishments from people who defended their reasoning, defended themselves from being labeled racists, defended themselves as different. They were just ready for a different administration they said. And with reticence I tried to listen, I tried to empathize, I tried to understand.

Only to realize that I was listening to no one.

Because they have nothing to say.

There is no one there.

There are only echos that ricochet off well-meaning deaf walls that were constructed long ago.  And those walls will remain standing long after the truth comes raining down. A glaringly obvious acid rain that will be hard to ignore. That rain has come and gone and those echoes remain. I am not racist. Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist.

That may be true to a certain extent because can a hollow being with no substance truly be anything but an echo?

Ricocheting hate.

Ricocheting pain.

Ricocheting ignorance.


I’m howling.

And you hear.

But you won’t listen.