La Llorona

July 18, 2016


Rodney Gomez is the author of Mouth Filled with Night (Northwestern University Press, 2014), winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize, and Spine, winner of the Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize (Newfound, 2015). His poetry has appeared in various journals, including Denver Quarterly, Barrow Street, Blackbird, Salt Hill, Drunken Boat, and RHINO, where it won the Editors’ Prize. Born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, he earned a BA from Yale and an MFA from the University of Texas–Pan American. He has been awarded residencies to the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the Santa Fe Art Institute. He has also served on the board of Migrant Health Promotion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of migrants, immigrants, and related populations. He works as the transportation director at the University of Texas–Rio Grande Valley.

Walking a country road one late evening, I came upon a woman who carried a disarming valise.  Quiere comprar una fruta? she asked. I expected her to open her carriage, but she instead displayed a family of stones, each cut into a different kind of fright: a skull, a devil’s head, a killer, a venture capitalist. I chose an Olmec head after my own design and promptly brought it home. It made a wonderful chopping board, I was so proud. Then it began to tremble. Oh sinner, what have you worshipped? The head cracked open in wailing under the soft cotton. A tassel of snakes, precious purely through infancy, tumbled out. They slithered up my paralyzed legs and into my eyes, nose and mouth. My head felt like a tube filled with maps. My eyes saw lightning or spirits, it was hard to tell. Little darlings controlled me and I wept. I travelled back to that old country road and the woman now rolling a jukebox along the cobbles. Very quickly I was emptied. The snakes slid into the lighted slot where loose change should go. Thank you, the woman said. I haven’t heard that song in years.

© Rodney Gomez


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