“Veal” by Christina Salme Ruiz Grantham

Veal
Cattle, Novato, California, 2004

¿Adonde voy? Where am I
And where am I meant to be? Nowhere,
at home, all day, trapped in my
mother-built mind-house,
closet-sized box, still.

¿Adonde estoy?
Some days she walked me to my room, slid
the closet door, helped me climb
into the ever-empty shelf.
She told me “stay” in the closet of
her discontent, like a dog worth beating.
“A storm,” she said, “stay quiet,” she’d say,
“not one peep,” checking and
rechecking through the slit—
open, close, open, peek.
Her palpable nerves ensuring I’d stay
still, quiet, more scared she’d find me
gone, of what might happen if
I touched the door, if I fingered
the unpainted inner wood
found a grasp, a toe hold
reopened my closet from the inside, clambered
to bed. Less frightened she’d forget me
than a splinter in my hand would betray me.
I stayed quiet for hours like days, day after
infinite day, listening to her moaning fright through
the plasterboard separating their thin room from mine.
How lonely she spent the storm, how
she must be aching. Yes I’d be still
but for the shaking of those walls,
Yes but
for the metallic rumble of my shelf.
Quiet
except for the storm, my ally.

¿Adonde fuí? At five, the moving box in
an unfurnished room—room in a different country—
where we’d play hide and seek, mother,
daughters, but mostly hide
at her insistence, hide from an elder
sister, try to win any game
by being more than silent—cardboard—win
against a greater force,
a sister, a mother like a child herself,
who never came looking for me until
I’d fallen asleep
in a box too tall to crawl out of,
too narrow in which to lie down.

 

 

Christina Salme Ruiz Grantham obtained her MFA from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1998. In 1999, she received an Individual Artist Grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, and Governor’s Citation for Artistic Merit. More recently, she attended the 2004 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and was a scholarship winner in 2005. Also in 2005, she won an Individual Artist’s Grant from Prince George’s County, Maryland where she lives with her husband and twin sons. Mrs. Grantham has been previously published in Earthwise Review, Mobius, The Allegheny Review, and Borderlands.

 

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