My children stopped eating
when we moved to this country.
Their sandwiches come home
untouched in their sacks, whole apples,
whole crackers, un-nibbled pieces of cheese.
Breakfast, they refuse fruit, toast, yogurt.
They sip dew-beads of water from narrow edges of cups.
Thinner and thinner, they slip from the house,
thinner still return home afternoons, shoulder
to talus shoulder with friends in the street.
I cook coconut rice, spaghetti carbonara, strata, frittata
bundt cake, horchata, banana-coffee pie.
They slide through the windows and doors
new words dart from their diminishing mouths.
They perch on the table, bone faces, bone hair.
They speak so I can’t understand.
I bash out the dishes of food.
I grow angry and mute. I grow very large.
I make noise like a forest of trees. I groan
molten red. I rasp from the roots of my bones: EAT!
Timberlands grow up my hips and clouds form over my eyes.
EAT! I howl across the table of food.
And their eyes spark wild as they witness my mountainous turn,
the ash in my ears, the birds that build nests in the branches
grown out of my hair, the rabbits living in the thickets of me,
the range of my thighs, the stony ground of my middle.
Thin as inklings, the children run through the damp
prattling in their incomprehensible tongue:
Pachamama! Pachamama! They chant and they dance
and drum and skirt the sides of the room.
Pachamama! Pachamama! Fruit grows
from my shoulders and hips, grains sprout on my face.
EAT! I yell, and the children delight in the harvest of me, singing
and dancing and throwing their braids against the flesh of my fields.
But still they don’t eat.
Still they don’t eat. Oh children.
They ghost out the door. They turn into starlight and smoke.
The house winks and waves in equatorial heat.
I’m alone with mountains of food. Flies buzz foreign songs
in my ears, and loneliness tickles my dry creek bed arms
the tides of my sea, my fecund valley of skirts.
Se cayó. Se cayó. Tongueless I warble and purr in the hush.
Lisa Allen Ortiz wrote “Novoandina” when she was living in Cusco, Peru with her husband and two daughters. She’s now returned to her home in Santa Cruz, California, but Peru haunts her with its mountainous wings. Some of her poems and translations have appeared in Best New Poets, Beloit Poetry Journal, Duende, and Zyzzyva, and in two chapbooks, Turns Out and Self Portrait as a Clock. Her poetry appeared in TLR: Refrigerator Mothers (Fall 2010)
Read more Lisa Allen Ortiz: “The Drawer Marked Meats”
“Novoandina” was first published in “Do You Love Me?” (TLR, Spring 2015)