Shopping for Blouses

In the back of a women’s store,
Crystal Mall, another mall, USA.

I’m shopping with my teen girls
again, cell phones at their sides,
they lead me toward a stack
of blouses and then the cash
register. I pull my wallet
from my side, but before I pay,
I ask them to play tag. They
read one aloud,

Made in El Salvador
Hecho en El Salvador

The sewing machines have
been pushed aside to a far-off
world, but I can still hear
their thumping, the drops
of sweat. Their grandmother
touching every stitch.



Third World Worms

I would rub the curve, push my palm
against my stomach, pressing hard
as my fingers tried to find the outline
of the worms living inside of me.

Even as my arms thinned, the belly
would grow. And even as I squeezed
the folds and I willed a twisted neck,
the worms would squirm in silence.

My abuela would follow the usual
ritual, mix a glass of potion, then
mumble a blessing, calling on all
gods to exorcise the serpents.

The worms would still resist,
clinging until they were pulled
and stretched as I clinched
my teeth and pushed and purged.

As she exhumed bodies of worm
after worm, called spirit after
spirit, puddles seeped slowly
inside her small adobe shack.

I never bothered to ask her where
the worms came from or why they
came back to gnaw and grow
inside the tunnels of my body.

A baby’s crawl told of the trails.