My grandmother prays to Santa Guadalupe,
the one embalmed on her nightstand candle.
I wonder what she prays for. I would wander
through crowds of these candles in grocery stores,
shelved into congregation, with the saints’ faces
contorted in phrase. I looked into the eyes of
decapitated lambs behind glass. They
stared lifelessly back, and I walked quickly
down the aisle. Near the milk and the juice,
a blue aura inhaled my words into mist.
Piñatas floated in the ceiling like stars
wearing masks of confetti and wax.
Through my father’s whispered translations,
I watched Snow White. I wished someone so
beautiful spoke Spanish, the lullabies
my mother cast. Someone shushed my father.
The clean white chalk of the classroom redraws
my sky in dotted lines, inscribes my name
alongside twenty others. I cling afloat to the
golden, plastic stars held above my head.
The grocery stores of my childhood
are expired visas. The echoes of my youth
sound from the tomb of my tongue. They are a
homecoming stuck in limbo—in other words, a memory.
Just this summer, I helped my grandmother with her
citizenship test. 100 questions about presidents, wars, and
doctrines. Things I didn’t even know. She answered each question
slowly, in English, her voice hovering like a halo.
That was the closest we’ve come to conversation since
I was five. Yet every Christmas, she greets me with
“¡Ah, mí corazón!” and I respond with nods,
bob my head up and down, smile bright and empty.