Mama’s on a warpath
She’s had it
with everyday luxury
Those words should never
end up together
It’s such an unnatural bond,
like identity and reinvention.
Soon Madonna’s gonna get back on the gondola,
not knowing she’s in Vegas.
Listen, little one, there’s a reason
Jesus didn’t resurrect himself every day.
How many times
can you get assassinated
before you wise up?
now that’s a luxury,
and mama’s not giving it freely
She’s spitting on guilty graves
Don’t write me saying things
in bad taste.
It’s not something I can afford.
When I was growing up,
No one spoke about the future,
or having a banner year
thanks to Bubba and Scooter.
All those kingpins
with the names of dogs
who tear into steak with silver
and dig holes in the ground
to hide the bones—
That is how the mighty create.
All the new things for us to say—
That’s the life, she says, I want for you.
This is how she dreams for children and yet
Mama never has time for fun and play
The worst criminal of all is lisa frank
Too much damn celebration
on a single folder
It’s a waste of color
Children after all are childish enough
When I was growing up,
Mama says, we didn’t have alcohol.
We got drunk by working too much.
Purpose was a luxury
and you had to pay for it,
Her great ambition in life
is for her daughter
This came after she heard on dallas
that a blonde’s whole life
was la-di-da and this
This caught hold
That’s the life I want for you, she says to me looking at the television
She doesn’t care for nuance or getting
bogged down in history she moves
forward my mother
she cries at funerals
and then makes mourners
and it always is
she takes over words
like grief and reflection
and living wages
She has no time for healing
or the people who can’t spell her name
Like the one who wrote to extravaganza
gomez wouldn’t you like 2% cash back
and my father swinging her around the kitchen
laughing about his secret
exotic dancer wife
My father the only person living
able to break
the fourth wall
she’s set between her and the world
There are no asides
She hides nothing
Her discipline is soliquoy: her mind roaming
wild Listen, little one, no dating until you’re married.
No boys until summa cum laude.
She knows the difference between northwestern
and northeastern universities in case I try to sneak
anything by her No pregnancy before
you’ve grown a life of your own because I brought
you into this world and I can take you out. Mama’s
on the warpath I’ll throw you on the street
wearing all that paint on your face.
I’ll knock out your teeth if you join a gang.
I love you, you’re my everything. I’ll scrub
every floor if you don’t get a scholarship
although you’re only holding down
a part time job. Listen to me:
don’t go into labor law or human rights
to honor me. Eat meat every day
and make bank with Buckley,
and then take his job, and then the company.
Why aren’t you studying? Figure out sailing. Don’t die
for anyone. Study before you get a license to drive
or practice law. Medicine before law,
and both before business.
I break her heart when I choose poetry
but she comes around to say: Study all the anglos—
dead before living, and mostly the men.
She has an inkling of dickinson
She put away americo paredes
and all the corridos she knew
She hoped my jewish studies made me intellectual
She told me to walk fast into stores like barneys and saks
looking bored, with my right hand splayed out
until I found the sales rack
without it seeming
the primary purpose
She worked two jobs and once never had a day off
for three years
She worked every holiday and weekend
and opened on Christmas of her own accord that day
her boss stayed away and let her run the store
But don’t make yourself into Moses, she says
Parting the sea,
only to be left behind.
is the impossible catching up
with the rest of us,
with the chosen ones.
On a rare night
which my father finds
you won’t find her
looking for the next day
There she is in his arms
in a plastic lawn chair by the small garden
he builds for her
Everything loses shape
and it’s too dark to see anything
Here only are the colors real
There is no devastation in them
Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a 2013 CantoMundo Fellow and the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013). A Leopold Schepp Scholar at New York University, she won the Seth Barkas Prize for Best Short Story and The Thomas Wolfe/Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Best Poetry Collection. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan where she earned her MFA in Poetry, and was a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Recently, her story “A Way out of the Colonia” won the Editor’s Prize for Best Short Story in Camera Obscura: A Journal of Contemporary Literature and Photography. A graduate of the 2010 Women’s Work Lab at New Perspectives Theater, her plays have been produced in New York City, Washington DC and Toronto. Her work appears in The American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Bayou, Puerto del Sol, among others. Rosebud is an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts (vidaweb.org). Find out more about her at 7TrainLove.org.
14 Replies to “Her Name is Esperanza”
I loved this piece at #2014splitthisrock
Thanks, Millicent. After some rewriting, got it where it should be less and more EXTRAVAGANZA. 😉
“Listen, little one, there’s a reason Jesus didn’t resurrect himself every day. How many times can you get assassinated before you wise up?” Rb, humor looks good on you.
Thanks, Andy. I owe that in part to you.
Yay!!! Loved hearing this out loud.
Thanks, Hila 🙂
This is great. So much personality.
Have you been killed dead yet? Love it.
Thanks, chicas. No, Diane, not yet. But then again, she hasn’t seen it. I’m suddenly overwhelmed by those years.
Oh man, this is f’n amazing, Rosebud!
We are honored, Rosebud! A lyrical honesty. Gorgeous.
Michael, thank you! Rae, thank you for the space.
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