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Middletown
Connecticut

BACKBONE

All

BACKBONE

The Ankh

I was the child bearer, the crumb maker,

bread eater, Guanabana goya juice drinker

pre–pre-diabetes

proned to chapped lips

broken wrists

slit veins clammy bones

tender hips calloused palms

type of mother.

All was gone before I knew how to speak

“BACK BONE” into an emergence.

I started eating bacalao when I was 15.

I hated the taste.

It had the consistency of hair entangled in a corn fritter–the inspiration for corn dogs.

But, Papi’s family name is Bacalao.

So that makes me Bacala,

Codfish, salted in a caribbean sea blue bag,

coiled in between other bodies, peces, just to be soaked in water,

fried, baked, devoured, all in the essence of

– BACK BONE.

How do I show that my mother

is not who she says

she is.

hurting.

crying.

grieving.

polluting.

grating the BACK BONE shards

with a pilón and makes

what she wants to be egg shells   into powder dust

for the eggplants. beets. peppers. in the garden.

Papi picked maroon coffee beans off of

acres of familial land.

Only God knows who’s land it is now

– we lost the paperwork some time ago.

It was his home when he was growing up.

                                  He learned to grow food, the sustenance of his family as a migrant worker.

BACK BONE.

Papi held me up the last time I passed out.

Two bites of a weed cookie

and I felt my toes being caressed in what could have been

an ocean of tears abuela held down before I was born.

I felt…

BACK BONE.

Bacala.

BACK BONE.

Beaten.

BACK BONE.

Stolen.

BACK BONE.

I hear abuela crying in her sleep sometimes, telling me “Los hombres son el demonio andando en la tierra.” I hear her wake up to recheck the locked front door, put her potty under her doorknob, pray every night for our wellness.

BACK BONE, I am in college now.

BACK BONE, I miss being back home, feeling you inside of me, watching TV after going to CCD on Sunday mornings and coming home to Mami cleaning the house,

flipping couches upside down,

getting the grime off of objects that could be resold as unused.

BACK BONE, extends to “I am only tired” in English and

“Yo rehuso los límites del abuso” in Spanish.

How do I put myself into words that are collapsing between

multiple worlds that converge into one?

BACK BONE, please grow back though.

BACK BONE, you done held me before.

BACK BONE, I’ll take care of you this time.

BACK BONE,

please be my escape. you’re all I need anymore. I won’t let you fall again.

BACK BONE: My back hurts. I cramp before I menstruate. I cramp while I’m bleeding. I feel my uterus contracting, trying to purge the blood of my unborn, unfertilized child. The scarring of a missing column of bones out of my body. I hurt without you. I cramp without you. Please grow back, I don’t want to risk losing my mothers again.

Ivanie Lucia Cedeño ‘22