My Parent’s Room

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My parents’ room was small with the scent of camphor sticks and
bay rum for my mother suffered from many ailments some real
and others imaginary

Above one of the bureaus was my father’s precious altar
with a smiling Buddha and a porcelain statue of La Virgencita de la
Altagracia who stood quietly in the silence with José looking
perplexed and staring at baby Jesus

I could swear La Virgencita knew my moves understood my
thoughts in the center of the altar a candle remained lit all night
long surrounded by faded sepia photographs of dead or lost
relatives and wrinkled prayers to heal old wounds

La Virgencita’s light brown eyes seemed real for they glittered in
the darkness while the candle below her flickered startled by my
sight many times I thought I heard La Virgencita speak to me
and stare at me with disapproving eyes

On those nights I dared to run through the hall of ghosts and
penetrate myself between the warmth of my parents to taste with
my senses the feel of my father on those nights I never dared to
look at La Virgencita’s eyes

Instead I stared at the floor or the profile of my father willing to
kiss him and implore his forgiveness for the deep child-like
longings I had for him and on those nights I would quickly throw
myself in between my parents without forethought or strategy
Luckily my mother often stirred in her sleep and faced the wall
and I would feel such a relief and intense personal triumph
as if I had secretly won some unknown battle against her

by Annecy Baez
This poem first appeared in From: Callaloo 
Volume 23, Number 3, Summer 2000 
p. 977 | 10.1353/cal.2000.0123

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