Song for the Womyn

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We will hurt each other.

We will hurt each other, manita.

But that doesn’t mean that I will forget you.

I will not forget that you were there to shield me from his 

blows and to catch my 

first born baby boy, and water my flowers

while I nursed him, after you helped

him find the strength to suckle

and helped me find the strength to let him.

We will hurt each other, comadre, 

But we need each other 

more than we need our pride.

Because while one of is bitter about the way 

this one took the man she had yesterday or the other one

she wanted tomorrow,

another of us is weeping into the burnt sopita,

because there isn’t a clean dish to serve it on,

desesperada from the baby’s cries and

hating herself for slapping those little cheeks.

And we cannot forget, neglect, or abandon her.

We will hurt each other.

We will hurt each other, manita.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t still 

braid each other’s hair.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t 

weave the ribbons in to catch the strays.

And at the end of the day,

scratch each other’s tired scalps as we let the

strands loose and whisper “piojitos, piojitos”

just like mama used to do.

This is a beautiful thing,

these trenzitas we make together,

that we fashion into bridges that keep our

feet out of the cold water,

or that we can tie around our waists and our wrists,

so that if one of us wanders too far,

she can find her way back to her sisters.

Cello

I used to know you, completely,

always. Kneeling before you, relishing

the pain in my knees, washing your feet with my

black ancestral hair

never tiring because I was an obedient

one. My unseen master,

vengeful and dead, moving me with guilt

and sorrow, until I woke to find you missing.

Now I don’t speak, but listen,

my heart searches the skies for your voice,

longing to be trapped and choked by you.

 

Now the candles are lit in vain,

I grip the relics and plead at the feet of the

dead while you say nothing.

You die every day, taking me with you

like a starving dog, pregnant and paralyzed.

 

Neglected, I stand alone

under empty skies.

Some nights, I stir under your touch

in the dark, but wake each time

to cold and darkness, nothing more.

 

Holy week,

I climb a mountain

for you, to be closer. I look out over the

sister city, smoldering in her abandonment.

We must survive this fire,

scarlet sparks and flames that peel our skin.

While you look on,

silent.

 

Poetry

little spirit

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fly away
little spirit
it was not our time
i will drown you
in your sleep my little sweet
and in another life
we will share a love
i will kiss your eyelids
and weep as you awake

Pendeja

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there are houses
in which beautiful women exist
and the hounds sniff at their doors
and leave foot prints in the flower beds
and scratches in the wood of the doorframe
there are women
who think them puppies
and bring them in to the sacred warmth
and feed them from their breasts
and forgive the teeth
sinking into their nipples
but my mama didn't raise no pendeja
i know better
than to let a
stray dog
inside

My Blood

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When I dance for you,

my feet are stomped raw,

and I leave my copper blood, dark

brown and savage in the places where

my toes have twisted into the wood

I would feed you the skin, if

it didn’t hurt so to tear it

from where it hangs

dying on my feet.

I would cook for you,

and watch you eat me,

ignoring the fire left behind

in my fingers by the seeds of the

peppers, green and red. I’d let you think

I was smiling for love of you, but when I smile for you,

my lips split in the places where

I’ve chewed them in angst.

Copper blood drips

onto my tongue;

I am eating myself.

I would spit it in your face,

if the thought of your skin smothered

in my saliva and in my blood wasn’t so terribly

beautiful.

Something Like a Woman

I can lift my gaze

up, like a woman

because my bare feet have withstood

the hot sand

because my thighs have kissed the ocean

because my belly was more full than the moon

and I have nursed

her because I have bled

and cried and because

I have tended gardens.

I have tasted butterflies between my lips

and dragged my fingernails over the

shoulders of lovers.

I have been alone

in the dark and I have not wept.

I have shimmied hips

and draped with jewels I have

melted and dripped.

I have burned and I have frozen.

I’ve been slave and I’ve been master

and I can lift my gaze.

 

  

Thirst

She presses herself

against the sun-bleached

walls sometimes for relief of the heat.

Her breasts, embroidered with the memories of fingertips,

heave like sand dunes under the breath of the sun,

and pieces of her fall away

grain by grain

into the air,

into other deserts.

This temple, without one to

worship at her altar, to weep and sing

on bloody knees and tremble in awe as she tends the

holy flames,

will burn herself down, will melt the chains

that tease her wrists

and her hips.

They will come

and watch from the horizon

as the water evaporates at her red lips,

as the sun, orange and blue, falls into the grey dust

and she bears her thirst with patience,

as the pieces of her fall

away, grain by

grain.

La Noche

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Durante la noche todo cambia.

The land is smothered in shadow

and the lights move over the streets

slowly as if they were spirits like me.

I lingered in doorways, and I hovered over precipices.

I stood in strange homes and watched the mountains through the windows,

the lights trickled down and the wind carried me away

over borders, over oceans, over time.

My life was familiar, but smudged,

as if with ashes and coal by a heavy thumb,

a dark copalera.

I kissed the cheeks and the lips of my dearest friends, unaware that they could not see me,

that I wasn't there.

I wandered over the desert with the dogs who were lost

and rested in the moon shade of trees that don't exist.

When I awoke, my feet were trembling with desert dust and pricked with cactus needles.

Mi alma camino mucho anoche,

and I woke up exhausted.

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The Water

We were women once,

before we mothers.

Don’t forget that once we belonged

only to ourselves

when we danced with fire

and combed our hair with silver.

We bathed for hours

naked in the moonlight

and we were careless with our lovers,

we left the house at midnight

and walked the streets

alone. Our eyes were

serpentine and we perfumed

ourselves with stolen sage and

rosemary and rose petals smeared over

our young, unblemished skin.

Before the water filled us up

drop by drop

and we disappeared

with the torrent of

blood and tears and howls and joy

and forgot that

once, we were women.

Prose

I can see that predatory sickness in your eye, little man. The way it grows out of your face, that need to ravish. Do you deny me that power? I see you.
She could taste the kiss in the water, she could feel it sliding through her lips, inside of her, deep and livid, terrified. His eyes locked to hers, faded quickly away into the water, his dark hair moving with the current, his red face pale, gone.
Loving you is a battle, blind man. You see nothing of my pleading, the soaring drum of my heart. How can you expect me to let you keep that light in your eyes? How can you ask for my mercy? I have seen you. I see you, you are not the fire.
The voice of the river woman rose, like a bell tolling over the hills of the land, seeking flesh. Through the dark mist it slid, her long black hair weaving the wind, eyes black, ablaze. The axis of the earth shifts, and she is looking down from above, from the line that passes through, from the top of the globe, down to all her children. She crowds herself in the shadows of under passes, the river of cars creasing the air. She lingers in the doorways of bars, catching the eyes of dead men, following them home to their houses with big windows where their daughters sleep, timid. Her marching orders, their soul for the river. The sky swarms together into an ocean current, the colors come together, the flowers emerge from the stars, up there, look! It’s the most glorious sight, through the eyes of the river woman. You can hear them, the voices of the grandmothers, floral in prayer, so pretty. It’s the magic of women, and yes, it is fearsome.
Don’t be afraid, child. They come willingly. There is no guilt involved in the taking. They chose themselves, they come willingly.
— Excerpt of "Bosque" from Los Cuentos de Soledad by Ana Tiffany Devez
You loved my patient eyes not very long ago, raincloud over the barrio. Waiting for you in the rain. Wet cement. Water, dust, rising air, the back lit clouds, bright against their inner core, dark and tumultuous. I was a woman like that. Bright, stunning, beautiful, brilliant, with a visible inner core, stormy and violent, electric, burning, a flame born of the red mist, the seething terror of the land before and after. Walk to the little door of my huevito. Sit with the butterflies while I dry my hands, walk to the door. Let you in, warm tortillas. The music chirps, the hawks screech far away over the mountain. Or maybe it’s just the megaphone installed in the corner of the garden, to scare less sacred birds away. The mist, baby, I wanted to push you through it. Maybe I used you to push myself through it and back, and left you livid, squashed. You wronged the wrong sister, manito, but who was it that you thought you had here, little Che? So you joined those stray dog out in the streets. Tail tucked between your legs when you pass me on the corner, and I walk past you, unaware. But remember that once I was aware, and once I missed the dark of your curls, the braids I weaved in into it, and the way they would curl, too, because that’s how they rolled. And you walked on past when it happened, you slid on by like a cool cat, no Joseph for your Mary, no honey for my salt, no future for our past. Only the red mist, the black death of the new age, the terrible unknown in a beautiful undiscovered tomorrow. At first, I missed the silence of your presence, and the silence of your absence. I missed the way you walked away in the face of my brokenness, over and over. I missed the desperate fear of losing myself for reasons with no name, no face, no past, and no future. I missed it until I couldn’t see it anymore, until I was lost in the mist and what I found there was beautiful, and that made you manic. The songs of my grandmothers, the strength to accept the mortality of the bliss I remembered tenderly. When you fell out of love with me, I drifted away like a raft out to sea. Letting go, surrendering to the current slowly. I tried to hold on to the rope, the cloth of your clothes, until the very end. Until I was unraveling you, unraveling myself. I let go and surrendered into the silence, the political conversation. Out there, I drifted, into the place behind the courtyard, the alley, the street, the rocks, gravel, with the stray dogs who kept their legs tucked between their legs, I tried to take your place in the underworld until Tonantzin called me back. It was then that I surrendered the short memory of you, glorious illusion of Cuahtemoc, chest puffed, Zapata with the sweet pistol, Queztalcoatl who never did return. But I did. Upon my return from Mictlan, I cried for 3 days. They were worried about me, as I wouldn’t take any food, or speak. I lay in my white bed, weeping silently, an endless stream of sea water from my eyes. And at the end of the third day, she dried my eyes. I stood and placed my feet firmly on the ground. I discovered I could pick flowers, smell their scent, contemplate that this soft scented florecita was a sexual organ. Then watch it die like a baby in my arms, at my dry breast, and let it go. I am a flame made of stardust, the darkness of Mictlan through which the screams of a long line of abuelas could still be heard. And they are like moths, flying into me, thinking to eat. Oh, how mistaken they are.
— Excerpt of "Segundo" from Los Cuentos de Soledad by Ana Tiffany Devez

Photographs

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Ana La Tecpatl

Ana Tiffany Devez is a two-spirit xicana writer, educator, and activist from El Chuco. A life-long resident of the borderlands, she writes about the xicana experience, motherhood, womanhood, race, sexuality and works to document the beauty of xicanx, Mexican, indigenous, and immigrant communities of color through poetry, photography, and performance.