El Patio de Mi Casa, 1990, by María Brito
My patio was once a schoolyard, or maybe a barracoon, perhaps both, & the ghosts of children nest under the pink sink, mouths agape for flakes of rust, or they creep to the ceiling, sucking on the five taps of blue water, their little lips abuzz like cicadas. In the moonlight I see them bounce on my feather bed, bowed like an old donkey’s back, or they teeter-totter in my wicker chair darned with burlap string. Leave them alone, I say to my mother, who wants to cleanse the house with carvacrol, trapping these children’s souls in beehives, then stringing them up with kites so they fly to the moon. Let them drum our dented pots, let them screech happy carols, let them dance with tin spurs on their little feet. Mother, I don’t care if they nibble our family photos, soil your heirlooms of lace, or steal what few grains of rice (more like gypsum ants) you hoard in the pink pantry. Let them play cat’s cradle with spiderwebs, let them rummage in your armoire of moths, let them lurk in your shadows of ill will & tease you to laughter. Ghosts are unruly, free to be fickle, unlike me, the pig-tailed girl you kept strapped to the sewing machine in the shed of planks by the mango tree too old to fruit. Work & sweat will set you free, you said, just like Fidel on the radio. Cut me out of those sepia photos on the wall, burn those baby braids you keep in porcelain, toss my first communion gown into the sea. I wish I’d been born into a brood of mice, quick to grow, quick to breed, quick to die among the kapok trees.