My five-year-old brother hands me my mail, Happy Birthday, he says while smiling
content to be eating pretzels and peanut butter
before dinner. I flip through the stack
of unopened bank statements.
Nicolas has decided that uncooked pasta
is worth trying. He offers me some. No, thank you. I’m not hungry, I say.
He reaches for the sugar bowl, the teapot,
the clock: they are companions, belong together.
He thinks of home. Mama? Papa? he asks.
I explain they are near, at The Mermaid Inn.
I distract him by changing a light bulb.
We agree the kitchen is too bright.
And, later, when asked by our father
the child says, yes, in fact he would
like to thank god for something:
The curtain of night parts to reveal
the women that have gathered to pray.
Their cupped hands, the oil lamps burning.
Sand makes music for their saints.
Holy site, desert that understands
the meaning of impermanence.
Where tombs are made of stone, branch, cloth,
language. The simplest and most dangerous
of desires. They pray with their knees
in earth, sand blurring the face
of a colonizer in the landscape.
They are here to honor the dead. To bathe
in rivers, to mend their shrines, to chant.
With needle and thread, they make
an offering, they mark their wish.
Sherisse Alvarez is currently an MFA candidate in the Creative Nonfiction program at Hunter College. Her work has appeared in Palimpsest: Yale Literary and Arts Magazine; Daylight Magazine; Becoming: Young Ideas on Gender, Identity, and Sexuality; Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, and other publications. Her one-act plays have been produced at the Clark Studio Theater at Lincoln Center and the Blue Heron Theater in New York City. Sherisse has been a resident at the National Book Foundation and the Fine Arts Work Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org