Current Feature

Isabel Ribe

 

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

 


 

Baldwin 

Don't ever forget

That when you close the paper

When you filter your news feed

When you unfollow that Facebook friend

After just too many disturbing news stories

When you

Close the door

On your safe,

full home

don't forget

that you have that choice

to turn it off

to nurture

the illusion

of safety

that surrounds you

 

Don't forget that

for those outside

your walls

there is nothing abstract

or removed

about what scares you

so damn much

 

Don't forget

that for some people

there is no door to close

 

do you feel defensive yet?

do you feel guilty yet?

I am not interested

in guilt

we are all responsible

for this world

because we are all

part of it

 

James Baldwin said

That not everything

That is faced can

Be changed

But nothing

can be changed

until it is faced

and right now

Is the perfect time

to rub your nose in it

 

I want to disturb

The peace

that is held

So closely guarded

I want to mess up your comfort

I want to put a story in

front of you

and another

until you cannot

look away

I want to cancel your vacation

I want to make you late for yoga

I want to bring noise into your home

I want to move a family

Into each of your spare bedrooms

And unpack the fridge

Onto the dinner table

Because the truth is

The front lines are

inside of each of us

no one is free

And no one is safe

Until everyone

Is safe

And everyone

Is free

 

 

El Muro                                                                                 

Build that wall

So high

So glorious

Build that wall

Tremendous

Fantastic

That wall

Best wall ever

Strongest wall

Tallest wall

Most beautiful wall

Build that wall

Like an arrow

Shot from sea

To shining sea

Build that wall

Like a river

Flowing freely, easily

Over tall mountains

Through deep canyons

Cutting through

The long expanse

Of desert lands

Build it tall and strong

Build it true

Make us proud

Make sure no one

Can break it

Climb it

Tunnel underneath

Make sure no one

Could fly

Over

Make sure

Make sure

Make sure

WE

Are safe

 

Build that wall so high

it blocks the jaguares

The coyotes

The fox

The scorpions

The rattlesnakes

The lizards

The hawks

And javelinas

Make sure it blocks

The deer

And the doves

the hummingbirds

The owls and the

Jackrabbits

Make sure it blocks

The Tarahumara

The Yaqui

The Huicholes

The Tohono O’odham

The Dine

The Apache

The Hopi

The Mayans

The Aztecas

Make sure it

Blocks the children

And their mothers too

 

Build that wall so high

It blocks out the wind

That it covers the sun

And blackens the sky

Build the wall

 

*

 

El Rancho

they never wanted

to leave the rancho

 

nunca querían dejar

el rancho

 

young couple

their little daughter

 

woman

with the long black hair

lived her whole life

on the farm

cuidando los animales

swimming in the slow

pull of the wide river

 

on the rancho

donde tenían generaciones

enterados en la tierra

 

they trace their ancestry

the way geologists do

layers of ash

and bone

tangled

in cottonwood roots

hueso y ceniza

enredados

en las raizes

de los algodones

inextricables

inextricable

 

ser humano

significa

ser de la tierra

to be human

is to be of the earth

 

el río carga la memoria

los árboles cargan la memoria

las piedras son

nuestros ancestros

to be human is to be

of the earth

 

they left walking

through the night,

hot breath in crisp air

 

it's a true story

one day she came

to pick up her daughter

from the little preschool

where she herself had gone

and found huddled parents

crying and screaming

staring wide eyed

masked men had been

to the school

and stolen some handfuls of

little ones

she smells the fear

as its fingers grasp her

gut and spine

but inside she finds

her child playing with blocks

she smiles

when she sees her mother

 

they left that same night

Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua

her city

named for the aztec warrior

murdered at the hands of cortez

murdered at the hands of the colonizer

she leaves for the land of the colonized

to gringolandia

so her child can be safe

 

el río carga la memoria

los árboles cargan la memoria

as piedras son

nuestros ancestros

to be human is to be

of the earth

 

ya que llegan al norte

they are living with

family

sleeping under the kitchen table

in a home shared by many

trying to make it work

in a place they never wanted to be

so her child can be safe

one day she sits in the waiting area

of an agency to get food

and things for the family

in the room next to where she sits

the staff of a nearby preschool

is having an active shooter

training

 

she doesn’t understand

the English words she overhears

from the presentation

about duck and cover

and escape routes

how the teachers

are taught to shield

their students bodies

with their own

the different dangers

of gringolandia

 

she sits and thinks

how she is grateful for this

moment of sanctuary

and that it won't be long now

before the imaginary line

of the border dissolves

before the waters

and the tumbleweeds

the animales

and the people

can flow freely again

 

el río carga la memoria

los árboles cargan la memoria

las piedras son

nuestros ancestros

to be human is to be

of the earth

 

 

El llanto mestizo
Halfblood song

An Answer to the half breeds

Like me

Who have a habit of

Denying our ancestors

Of silencing our grandmothers

When being that edgy brown

Girl is in style

With the cool kids

 

How many half blood

Quarter blood

Brown people have I met

Denying our white sides

Shaming our mestizo

Siblings for falling in love

With white folks

Shaming our

own blood

 

no olvides

que si pones

tu sangre

en una sola canasta

estas caminando

vacio

Don’t forget

if you put your blood

in one basket

You are walking half empty

 

En este sentido

Soy huesera

I am a bone collector

In that kind of way

Gathering

Remembering

Feeling

Honoring

Acordando

Cosechando

honrando

The blood pulsing

In me that comes from

all my ancestors

Remembering my

White grandmothers

Were the first

To be colonized

The first to feel the whip

And the stake

And the forced

Forgetting

Of who we are

 

This body is born

Of migration

Of all colors

This body is born

Of untold numbers

Of brujas

Of bones

And blood

And cells

and stars

 

 


Isabel Ribe is a bilingual art therapist, clinical counselor, doula, poet, and artist living in Pojoaque, New Mexico. She has ten years of experience working with immigrants, homeless families, refugees and asylum seekers. Currently more than half of her therapy clients are detained in immigration detention centers. Isabel is a published poet, artist, and member of Alas de Agua art collective, which is an art collective for native, queer, and immigrant artists to foster abundance and opportunity for their art. 

 

 “El Muro” appeared previously in the 2018 issue of Santa Fe Literary Review, published by Santa Fe Community College.

 


 

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.