By Meliza Bañales
I want to tell you about planting roses.
How getting the soil just right for the seeds requires your whole body,
crouched, hunched, both arms—working, massaging, rotating.
My abuelita didn’t use a shovel.
Just some water, her hands, patience.
She waited for the ground to invite her.
And when the black mud slid through her fingers, she went in.
In this story, I am eleven-years-old and I go with her.
Though it starts slow, we quickly gather momentum.
And there we are, pushing, sweating, all smells, all dark and thick.
“It’s always an ugly business, getting to something so beautiful”
She would ask, “Can you turn the earth, mija?”
I’ll be honest with you:
I was holding back because I was afraid to get dirty,
afraid I wouldn’t get the stains out of my knees.
Afraid to be surrounded, to be held.
I didn’t know if I’d make it back from the black mud.
“Effort,” she’d whisper, “keep going.”
The sun to my back.
I’d push to get through.
The moment when the seeds could drop was so close and I wanted it to happen,
but didn’t know if my hands could get the job done.
But we kept going and before I knew it I felt something give and I stopped.
Took a shallow breath in my flat girl chest and pulled out.
“Now just sit, just for a minute,” Tita said.
I couldn’t hear the freeway over my Tita’s house in North Hollywood
the wires buzzing with electricity
someone’s favorite show
or a phone call good-bye.
I only remember the sky—it was so blue.
And a small wind found my face.
I want you to know this is how you make me feel.
When I’m thick in you—when I fall into you like a fool who only knows trust and this moment—when the whole of myself lets loose.
I am up to my arms in you.
Can I put my chest to the altar of your heart?
I’ll be honest with you:
I’m not holding back.
I’m here to make a mess of you because only the brave aren’t afraid to get lost
They live to be consumed.
So let me get lost in you.
Can you turn the earth, mija?
Can you let me use both hands to see inside your pain your past your desire your hurt and write a different ending.
I enjoy the dark.
It’s always an ugly business getting to something so beautiful
I want you to know I come from a long line of growers.
And I am not afraid to dig.
Meliza Bañales aka Missy Fuego is the author of Say It With Your Whole Mouth (poems, Monkey Press) and is currently searching for pulishers for her works: 51 Poems About Nothing At All (poems), Life Is Wonderful, People Are Terrific (fiction), and You Still Smell Like Danger (Stories and Essays). Her work has appeared in Without A Net: The Female Experience of Growing-Up Working Class (edited by Michelle Tea), Baby, Remember My Name: New Queer Girl Writing (edited by Michelle Tea), The Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Change, and Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders of the Spoken-Word Movement (edited by Alix Olson). She was the first Chicana/Latina on the west coast to win a poetry slam championship in 2002, has toured with Sister Spit and Body Heat, and gained national recognition for her appearances on NPR and The Lesbian Podcast. Her short film with J Aguilar entitled “Getting Off” won the Jury Award at TG Fest: The Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival in 2011 and her spoken-word album, And Now Introducing Missy Fuego, is expected on Crunks Not Dead Records in 2015. She lives in Los Angeles.