3 Poems by ire’ne lara silva

By ire’ne lara silva
Photo by Mohammad Emami on Unsplash

the pain of the body is sacred

we talk about dignity
and we talk about choices

we talk about medication
and we talk about surgery

we talk about what is likely
and we talk about what isn’t

we learn new phrases like
breakthrough pain

we learn to count hours
between permitted doses

i see things i hadn’t seen
before—red flesh, white bone

i see pain beyond all bearing
and wonder that it can be survived

what i learned all those years ago
was that the pain of the body is sacred

it is a sacred thing to witness this
to hold all of this in my heart

how the body is wounded
how the body falters
how the body heals
how the body weeps
how the body breaks
how the body is a ruin

how we cared for the body of the one we loved
how we poured love into the body of the one we loved
how even at the end it was hard to remove our hands 
to let go of their hands to not touch their face
to not think i didn’t know it would be so soon

we didn’t know
that all of it was sacred


i notice them everywhere i go. i always have. today on the same street i
saw three of them. different sizes. one not much more than a cross with
plastic red and white roses. one covered in blue flowers and a wooden slat
with a name and a date. and one with only slightly sun-faded star-and heart-
shaped balloons. four bouquets of plastic flowers. mardi gras beads.
a sunshine yellow cross with blessed written in turquoise paint.

when i see them i don’t cross myself like i do when i pass by cemetaries
and graveyard. i don’t know what to call that fractional moment of
acknowledgment which is me all at once crossing myself and sending a
prayer and thinking of the deceased and thinking of the mourners and a
small salutation to Death Herself. but all of that happens in a flash which
is neither sad nor afraid but is real.

i think of how it makes sense to mark the place of loss with flowers and
balloons and bright colors. how that sends a continuous burst of love to
their lost one. how it must be a way to begin to heal the rip of sudden
death. perhaps a painful death. and how acknowledging the loss hurts less
than passing by that place and seeing nothing to mark where it happened.

what i have discovered in these months of loss is that the descanso for his
loss is not necessarily where his body rests now. it’s not even the place
where he left this life. it doesn’t matter where i am or where i go. i carry
his descanso with me. everywhere i go. i carry it in my chest. here in my
chest where his leaving left a hole so big there was hardly enough flesh
to keep me together.

here in my chest is where i bring all the flowers. where i leave all the
brightly ribboned memories. all the silver medallitas of all the things that
meant so much to us both. where i carry all his favorite things. and where i
put all the things he would have loved that he will never see or know or
taste. here is where i will carry all the balloons lighter than air and heavier
than grief.

i am the descanso.

my mother would say

mis muertitos
‘my dead’
in the diminutive

claiming all her dead with
unfaded undimmed unending
love and affection

i say when anyone
will listen that she taught me
how to mourn

as if she knew she
would leave me when i was young
as if she knew i would have much to mourn

or perhaps it was because
i was the first child born
after her mother died

i don’t know the dates
sometimes i wonder if i floated
in tears and not amniotic fluid

she taught me by
remembering and remembering
her own mother

what her mother loved
how her mother spoke
what her mother believed

and i knew how to mourn
my own mother how it was less
pain and more love to remember

to speak all the time of what
she loved and what she said and
what she taught me

my mother knew no distant
way to think of her ancestors
or her beloved dead

i think she would have had
compassion for those who are
awkward in the face of grief

awkward because
grief hasn’t yet visited them
or because they weren’t taught

and they don’t know
or cannot accept that death
is not the opposite of life

only the next part
the next world
the doorway we’ll all enter

no one taught me
to fear death and i never
learned it on my own

i wonder now
now because i spend days
all my days in contemplation

if this a form of meditation
this remembering the dead
who are gone

but also not gone
to mourn and mourn deeply
in all directions in time

i cannot make new memories
with mis muertitos
but it crosses my mind all the time

they would have loved this
this would have made them laugh
and this would have made them weep

as fiercely as i might laugh or live
what do i call this
new way of walking

this sense that
every other step is in the
next world not this one

it isn’t that they are with me
it’s that part of me
is already with them

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ire’ne lara silva is the author of four poetry collections, furia, Blood Sugar Canto, CUICACALLI/House of Song, and FirstPoems, two chapbooks, Enduring Azucares and Hibiscus Tacos, and a short story collection, flesh to bone, which won the Premio Aztlán. Website

Photo credit: Mohammad Emami


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