What She Could Carry

April 10, 2015
By Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes 
Matter: A (somewhat) monthly journal  (October 30, 2014)

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. 

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,
	equatorial torrents,
	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,
	unsettled, aflame:
	the fabric of fecund days, deracinated.
Erosions of history tattoo themselves into her skin,
	numbing erasure,
	a cruel wind knotting her hair, and
	the splintered tires traverse
	under the weight of
	infant, poetry,
	and dread
	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. 
	 


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