‘I am dark, I am forest’ by Jennifer Givhan​

— Nix Thérèse

Jenn Givhan reminded me that ancestry is a circle constantly collapsing in on itself. Namely, sometimes our role is not to dole out wisdom or leave context clues for future generations, but to leave ourselves open to be healed & birthed again in another time.

Even as the youngest link in the familial cycle, the speaker of ‘I am dark, I am forest’ carries the past like a torch. The intestines in the menudo feel so visceral because I know that physical matter has pulsed through and processed. It’s not just gut-splatter, but the spun rope around it that gives me even more pause in puncturing / disturbing the ecosystem. There’s a delicacy to this dish; even the spices blended in are “chopped fine” to keep balance. In my eye, the gooey insides carry over to the avocado tree in turmoil: it’s planted in the backyard of the house they made [bisabuela] sell to get her Medicare for diabetes shots. Because avocados are fragile & usually put on ripen-watch lest they disappoint, I imagine that this yard is overcome with rot. It’s frustrating to watch the bisabuela stripped from what feeds her when I’m unsure if other sources of nourishment exist beyond this space. Yet the speaker’s determination in naming & shifting our gaze towards these violences feels like the first step in getting fed.

Displacement doesn’t notice the failed open mouth, but the speaker does. She carries the face, the wounds, the sewing machine her ancestor was chained to, the chanclas that burnt & melted against asphalt so she had to hoist the whole body too. She carries the pivotal labors. Her remembrance of this communal trauma inside her lineage is mirrored in the belly where the menudo is “scalding.” As she sails back across the “chile-red sopa the blood-water broth” with her mother and bisabuela in tow, she doesn’t get burned on her own sea. Rather, she “slices out” the darkness that’s haunted this landscape while saving her seed. How could you not want this boat buoyed?


Poetry