Dedicated to her grandfather, Laurie Ann Guerrero’s fifteen sonnets A Crown for Gumecindo published by Aztlan Libre Press explore her relationship with grandfather Gumecindo during the first year of his passing. Poet and artist Maceo Montoya provides fifteen paintings inspired by each of these poems creating a layered texture within the pages that will also move readers. There are excerpts from journal pages about her grandfather in addition to these poems, all of which explore her grief and the daily life that parted this Earth. Her exploration of memory, the surreal, and their roles within their life spans are beautifully presented:
4. The Absence of Water
Only the goats are here to say hello
when I kneel at your grave. I straighten blue
ribbon from your casket, wipe dust settled
in plastic red roses: your headstone has
no arrived. I rearrange rocks, pull newborn
weeds that sprout like vocal chords: he’s dead,
they hum. In my nails, your dirt burrows like worms.
I watched my tear fall into the lining of your blue casket.
I watched my tear fall near your shoulder and disappear
into the fabric, fast, like a raindrop into the thirsty earth.
My hands are dirty and you are not here
in your blue jeans, with your slow eye, to throw
me a manguera, to rinse my hands, to
wet my lips, to bless the little bodies
of tomatoes—trying to follow a sun
they can’t see, shrinking, puckered on the vine,
shaking in their skins, faces split as mine.
Take me with you.
Laurie Ann Guerrero shows the tender side of her grandfather, the gentleness in his ways when she speaks of his life outdoors tending tomatoes. She provides the same tender care at his grave and like so many of us who have lost a loved one she asks to be taken with him. I love the reference to weeds likened to vocal chords, speaking up for her grandfather, a hard reminder that he’s no longer able to speak aloud.
8. Dia de los Muertos
El Carmen Cemetary, Bexar County, Texas
The oddity that was put in my hands—
your truck. It used to be I drove this road
each week to pick you up. Now I drive this road
each week to lay you down again. Today
is the day of the dead: When did you die?
Today I bring you chicharron con huevo,
chile. Which is to say, I brought breakfast
to the goats. I want to slip my hand into
the photo of you, fix your hair as I did,
help you with your sweater, guide heavy salt
to your plate. Grass is starting to grow over
you. Shards of rock gone smooth. I sing to bees.
I lay my ear to stone; it doesn’t hurt:
I hear your song—water rising from dirt.
For the poet, the vehicle that transported life now transports her to the place of burial. On Dia De Los Muertos, the spirits of the deceased visit the living and it is custom to bring the deceased person’s favorite foods along with other offerings. Here, the poet knows that only the goats will consume the food offered in honor of her grandfather. She tries to get close by laying her ear to the stone of his grave in hopes of hearing his voice again. Her tenderness towards him is brought to life as she recounts the way she’d fix his hair. She reminds us of the small things that we take for granted in life, small acts, that once our loved one is gone means the world to us.
10. Stone Fruit
Good? I would ask. Good enough, you would say
of the wine we made from plums. Didn’t we,
for years, tend the mothertree? Didn’t we,
for years prune, pluck, hold in our hands the purpled
bodies bursting, that begged: me next, have me?
Weren’t we so nourished in the nerve? Someone
is burying our tree. You are reduced to pit.
I put seed in dirt, wait for you to come
back to me in a jar by the window.
You are not growing. Aren’t you a plum?
Little red, little kidney, little mouth
singing, calling: I’m here! I’m here! I thought
the dirt would give you something to take hold of:
I’ve buried everything I’ve ever loved.
I love how Guerrero seeks bringing her grandfather back to life through the plum tree from her grandfather’s property. A way to bring his livelihood closer to her home, she buries a pit from a plum by her window only to find that it isn’t growing and remains buried like her grandfather. Her sadness is poignant through this story she shares with us.
Laurie Ann Guerrero is based in San Antonio and has been previously featured on Poet Hound. If you enjoy these poems, you may purchase a copy of Laurie Ann Guerrero’s A Crown for Gumecindo here:
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