Steven Sanchez

CALIFIA

My mother points at the black vase
glistening under halogen bulbs,
its cracks sealed with gold streams
that almost trickle.  It’s beautiful she says. 
I want to take this for her, hold it
between my hands so that its gold
could sieve through my lifelines
as if they were mesh wire
in a miner’s pan, filtering gold
through my body and blood
that I could give to my mother,
gold I could return to her joints
where it would ebb into the coves
of her knees and meniscus,
settling like silt that soothes the debris
of walking.  She says Keep Looking
then smiles, sits, and rubs her knees. 
There isn’t a cure. Her immune system
excavates cartilage, creates canals
around her patella, fibula, and femur. 
Her antibodies are rabid vigilantes
like California’s forty-niners
staking claims inside her marrow.
Rings refract light from her hands
like a pair of silver gauntlets
and her necklace glints around her neck—
a single strand of chainmail. 
This is who my mother is: the warrior
who fought my father in the kitchen,
who marched to my school and found
the boys who taunted the color of my skin,
who taught me to read, write, and
speak solely in English, the best defense
she could think of to keep me safe.
I don’t want to believe in Calafia
because even if she lived and shared
our bloodline, the Conquistadors and miners
share it too, as if they’re the reason
our bodies spend our entire lives
destroying their own cells,
its only method of healing.
With each year, my mother’s walk slows
and the rheumatologist injects
his needle between her bones
like the potter who inoculated
this vase with molten gold, but
she says the medicine feels more like
ice, the sensation of an approaching storm
that makes her joints swell in spring and winter
as if her bones are the clouds surrounding
thunder’s crack, the sound of her walking.

                                    
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