What She Could Carry
It all fit in her arms
and the basket that hung from the handlebars,
a rusted castoff
whose creaking spokes clamored
for the voices of a scarce tomorrow
after years beneath the Plantain tree,
and open-sky sun.
Her infant child, strapped to her back;
some yucca, avocado, and coffee grinds wrapped
in the rapidity of alarm;
her mother’s portrait;
and a book of poems
she hoped she could someday learn to read,
that her husband regardless
brought her, wrapped in ribbon
from the city,
on the day he first kissed her
on the same riverbank to which he’d gone to fish
only to be eight months late for supper.
Rumors slapped her cheek for weeks
that he’d been taken to an unmarked grave
and handed a shovel
but there was no word otherwise,
despite her dawn-break pleas
perforating the hours up through
starless night wondering
that drained her breasts of their certainty
and left a bitter taste on her child’s tongue.
She rides the velocity of violence
peddling the dirt road to
some semblance of safe
after gunshots deafened the sugarcane,
untaming death and its havoc,
and the neighbor’s cattle came running,
the fabric of fecund days, deracinated.
Erosions of history tattoo themselves into her skin,
a cruel wind knotting her hair, and
the splintered tires traverse
under the weight of
toward a cosmopolitan horizon
where the extermination
of home and birdsong
rises from the blistering pavement.
*This poem references the violence of enforced disappearance and forced displacement that is rampant in Colombia. Colombia has over 50,000 reported disappearances, and about 5 million internally displaced. The Colombian military and its contingent, state-sanctioned, illegal armed groups are responsible for roughly 85% of human rights violations, including these.
Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes is a queer, mixed-race, second-generation Colombian immigrant, writer, scholar, artist, and activist. Her poetry has been seen or is forthcoming in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Kudzu House Review, As/Us, Feminist Studies Journal, Nepantla, Yellow Medicine Review, Write Bloody’s ‘We Will Be Shelter’, and others. She currently lives in Brooklyn.