From where enters your strength, your will to live? It reminded of how battered and bruised I have been. A memory of black clouds coming down onto me haunts my head and I had hoped that I had healed that trauma, but they asked me: where does that strength come from? There were no good answers to that question. Perhaps it was this ancestral DNA or my mother’s mitochondrial DNA that let me live though the struggle. How ungrateful I must seem, to have that survivor’s will and to hate the act of having to survive. She must look at me with disdain or maybe with pity at knowing that her scars are inscribed into my genetic makeup too.

Why have you stayed? I am asked this question, not in so many words. Sadly, no responses escape because I hold the gates tightly shut for fear of being seen as the fool. Who could have thought that this would be the woman striving to bear the fruits of my labor—so hindered by a simple soul?


Birthday Cake

Refusing to make a specialty cake a repetition of history in which negativity ran in wild designs, she mixed the ingredients. For the sweetest cake ever, she indulged in pleasant moments replete with glitter and samba and words dedicated to intrigue a fresh mind. Twenty-two scenarios in which the making of the cake would fail, some included an almost car crash due to a drunk driver–because they had to be drunk or too idiotic to run the red light–others included deadlock communications of bridges burned with little to no regret. Still, she mixed her eggs, she mixed the sugar with butter to prepare frosting that once added would perfect this culinary experiment. A little bit of ice scream would serve to cool bruises of past lovers and “family members” that refused to see how their manipulation and lack of love beat up the chef. Regardless, this birthday cake formulation was prepared in hopes of focusing on the twenty-two blessings given. The quick reflexes that evaded a crash, the certainty that follows a situation in which putting oneself first ensued. Family is not always in the blood, the two aren’t even mutually exclusive. The blessings are in the shoes that mom bought so that the cut on the back of my ankle would not be irritated because she knew that I deserved the opportunity to purchase ingredients that would synthesize the best cake in the history of Betty Crocker. The blessings are in the trust placed in the chef and the never-ending waterfalls of love that friends and family helped run through the crevices of this cake. Ultimately, the greatest blessing occurs in knowing that like this cake, within my chef soul, I am the harbinger of a masterpiece that holistically encapsulates the wonder, wisdom, and unity of each ingredient and scenario created into my soul. I can bake my cake and eat it too. 

What Mamá and Papá Taught Us

We jumped the fence and climbed the roof, and then we found tunnels where we could hide and shout. They said we were bad kids, but they didn’t know our history. They didn’t know that our ancestors crossed the border and some got shot. They didn’t know some of them swam the leagues of the ocean and some drowned. Those that made it taught us that there was more to life than following the rules. They taught us that some rules were meant to be broken for a moment of peace and wild laughter. We house the blood that is fiery red with the heat of the sun etched into our heads. They were blue and we were yellow ready to shine and blind and be missed on the paper. We sung to the spirits that protected us on our journeys as we risked life for one chance to live.

When we ate, we tasted the fruity, sweet, salty, spicy, and earthen dishes that our grandmothers taught our mothers who in turn taught us that life was about flavor and textures that engulfed our senses. We were hot and strong ready to run or fight back when our oppressors told us in school that we were lazy and our parents taught us inadequately. We learned to say please and thank you and fuck you all the while remembering that nothing weighed more on a life than turning our backs on those that hurt or loved us–we learned grace. We broke into the buildings that should have never been shut and picked at the locks that kept us out, but gave them access. We are fighters, lovers, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and tiny suns that will cultivate the fruits of strength and summer. We are culture.