I used to love birthdays, especially celebrating others' birthdays, until each of mine disappeared a little more. Numbers of texts or Facebook tags, less. As my years increased, it seemed, I was remembered less. My dad taught me to love elephants, except the reason I love elephants is because their leaders are strong women who remember. My birthday last week reminded me why I love elephants, the women who remembered me were matriarchs. They were not girlfriends, colleagues or contemporaries. They were not my mother, because that defies the limits of biology of both the living and the dead. Yet, they are all types of mothers. They are the kind of woman, mother, I can still be. As I gray, I can become an elephant.
When I wrote 'Save the Elephants', it was to honor women who lead, women who remember. The selected poem below represents this gratitude. For time. For hands. For voices, telling stories. We are a circle.
“Where are you working today Gloria?” I ask.
“The woman’s coop.”
“Can I come?”
“Instead of school?”
“I love sitting near the weavers.
It reminds me of Mamá,” I say.
I sit on the front step,
Leaned back against the stones,
I stretch forward.
I write in the yellow notebook.
“Related elephant females stay together for life.
Related elephant families share resources,
Care for young.
Everything is black and white.
Nothing is brown.”
In their midst, I return to a herd.
But it’s not my herd.
I’m an orphan.
I’m an immigrant? Migrant? Refugee?
One old woman squints through donated lenses.
Elephants do not have good eyesight.
I know I don’t know the strings’ colors,
I know I don’t know enough words.
The flowers reflect
The days’ yellow brightness
Through ever present dust.
Their husbands saw the same
Scattered in corn kernels
Spread out to dry.
Free trade brought
New colors in cotton string
New demand for old traditions
Mamá had wrapped her faja
Like the ones strapped in looms
Mamá had covered her guipil in her rebozo
Stepped onto a bus.
Inspired by Comandante Ramona
Mamá had boarded a bus to the First Indigenous Congress.
If Mamá had reached México City,
I don’t know.
I watch the women’s fingers.
I retell Buddha’s story
I learned from the Internet the Zapatista’s used so well
I retell Buddha’s story
About the origin of elephants.
The women pick up strings and drop them.
If only one string had been long enough
To help Mamá find her way home.
“You are a dreamer,” Gloria says
I don’t remember my dreams. I listen.
To Gloria’s tongue sip atol.
“Your dreams are still with you.
But that is not the kind of dreamer that I mean.”
“Then what?” I ask.