Chaplet of Mercy
by Rosa Salazar
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood,
Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins
and those of the whole world; for the sake
of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us
and on the whole world.
—Saint Faustina, 1935
Last night after prayers the baby cried, the aunt
jumped in and out of my bed, Grandma Emma
had a nosebleed and we changed her sheets.
She is fighting to keep her heart
and it is not enough. Feelings get hurt,
the potatoes shouldn’t have been fried
in bacon grease, the beans
have too much salt.
With Grandpa gone, she weakens
and rallies. She uses his expired nitroglycerin
and I make her throw it away.
She wilts into her blankets
at bedtime, at naptime.
She eyes her pills.
“What if I didn’t take them?”
Her body is a reed, an artichoke bush, a fig.
She wants to see Jesús’s wedding
and Deanna’s graduation.
She wants to find out whom I will marry,
to see her first great-grandchild.
The body has its will
and lack of will.
It winds itself out
on short breaths
connected by prayer.
by Rosa Salazar
Into the morning quiet fall leaves
made of rustling, church bells ringing,
the sound of workers blowing air
into unafraid machinery, cleaning
until a moment of certainty—
Did he shout? Did the sound of the engine
scream through potato vines and barley,
call him to the spinning that does not forgive?
Grandma’s heart depends on vessels with walls
thin as drum heads and the memory that you, too,
were found crushed by a machine’s steady drone.
She says Ramón got married last year
her voice crackled cream, “Awful for his wife
but when it’s your destiny. . . .”
Tío, I was dreaming of the old horse’s mouth
open and drooling from lack
of teeth and abscesses, but all I could hear was
“Live, don’t think about losing.”
by Rosa Salazar
Making the right turn onto Peterson I think
this all feels so automatic, have I done this
before? When I was ten the ladies at Ojo
Caliente put herbs in my fists to determine
my headaches came from licorice deficiency.
They gave me a little brown bottle, bitter drops
in un pocito de agua every night and
it may have helped but the bottle eventually
ran out. I can’t be with Aunt Janice now, picking
figs for the pudding in her old back yard because
she’s all the way over on the east coast, Tía Alexina
not doing well either, now she’s in Evergreen
are her versos in danger her dancing legs weak
real speech has pauses in the middle like Grandma
Ethel on the phone with her whispery voice and
her shoulder screaming from waking in the middle
of the night on the floor in the hallway, dragging
herself somehow back to bed and Grandma Emma
with her arrhythmic heart slowing down and should they
or shouldn’t they put in a pacemaker please don’t
anyone die, not the old horse whom I’ve seen in
dreams, jumping, no tumor in his eye, not Laura
who is already gone, who we can’t bring back to
a ridge of light along certain thoughts when Tío
Manuel and Tía Delsie spoke Spanish to me
perhaps seeing continuity, not breakage,
though Tío Manuel coughs into his handkerchief
and sometimes cannot find his breath and it scares me
that he will die too yet there is another side
to despair, and if I couldn’t write about each
as they deserve at the very least I wrote them
this way, by way of introduction, and if bright
red blood is a sad sloughing, it still means there is
nourishment each month and an even lesser thing
is that this here may be fertile ground for something,
someday, and at least these headaches go away with
aspirin and a little chocolate, the medicine
could be worse, and yes, that is what getting to know
someone is, a leap here, a small touch, a wild faith.
Rosa Salazar completed her MFA at Colorado State University in
2005. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Puerto del Sol,
Limestone, and Matter. She is currently teaching poetry, English,
biology, and dance at an orphanage in central Mexico.
On “Another Side to Despair”:
I was in graduate school, away from home, and frustrated with the
demands of teaching while trying to find time to write. At first the
poem seemed to be about that. Gradually, I edited out those pesky
composition students who, ironically, brought me to this poem. In
initial drafts, I couldn’t seem to find the line breaks, the rhythm. A
teacher suggested counting syllables. This seemed appropriate, since
the poem is concerned with counting people and ailments. The
syllables, counted out twelve for each line with the tapping of my
fingertips on a table, give some sense of regularity and form to a rush
of language that is otherwise variable in terms of rhythm and subject.
The syllables remind me of the continuity of breath and heartbeat, the
life promised in those sounds.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 2, Number 1
Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
Tío Leandro, Where Were
You When Ramón Died
on the Farm Last Week?
Another Side to Despair