Featured Palabracita: M. Brianna Stallings

La Palabra is honored to present poet, M. Brianna Stallings as a featured Palabracita. Stallings featured collection: Ofrendas creates a vivid and provocative story.  Please enjoy this small collection of her work.

HairGlasses

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M. Brianna Stallings is a writer, editor, voice actor, and die-hard music nerd. A Creative Writing major at UNM, Stallings is the current undergraduate recipient of the Hillerman/McGarrity Scholarship in Creative Writing. She is a former culture writer for The Albuquerque Journal, and currently writes for The Weekly Alibi, the city’s leading alternative newsweekly. Her interview with Nation contributor and Citizen Radio host Allison Kilkenny appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Bitch: Feminist Response to Popular Culture.

Stallings is the also the author of two zines, Hold Back a Glacier and Glacial Meltdown. Her poetry has appeared previously inScribendi and Conceptions Southwest.

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Ofrendas

It’s all laid out for them.
Now it’s just a matter of waiting.
They’ll be here; this is their night.

I: Grandmama

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Mama told me that the reason
she loved to watch “The Munsters”
was because she thought
Grandmama Florence looked
just like Yvonne De Carlo,
the actress who played Lily.
Mama told me about the stroke;
it was the only way
her mama could find to escape
from Grandaddy’s wicked hands.
“One day,” Mama said,
“she laid down for a nap
and just… never got back up again.”
So we never got to meet in person.
She was already gone
by the time I came around.
Wait. That’s not strictly true.
I did meet Grandmama Florence
once before
when I was very young,
and after she’d been dead
for going on 15 years.
She’d come to see her grandbaby
and left behind
little pungent pockets of smell –
a tiny cloud of Emeraude perfume
tinged at its center
with cigarette smoke.
Now she’s come in to see me again,
bellowing with a joy
I’ve only heard in an echo
in my own mother’s voice
to see her grandbaby
arms open
welcoming as a woman.

II: Grandaddy

Grandaddy soon follows
looking every bit the old codger,
yet somehow miraculously imbued
with the strength
to carry all of his weight
on one foot.
He’s so agile now
that he hops like a schoolboy.
Before it finally killed him
the diabetes took one of his feet,
after wet gangrene set in
and it had to be amputated.
See, some of those majestic Doors
open up to a Heaven where,
when you cross the threshold,
you are healed
and you become whole.
Grandaddy crossed over
into his Paradise,
one where what he lost in life
stays lost
as penance
for a life lived
mired in meanness,
violence, and neglect.

III: Grandpa

Grandpa wanders in
with the trail of smoke
from his Camel filter
tagging along behind him,
free to be carefree,
yet still cautious as a barn cat.
Much like the son and granddaughter
that came after him,
he too found charm
in Death’s crooked smile.
They’d chat
now and again on the back porch,
(after the cancer
set a sharp damning creak
in his bones),
but he waited, waited
until the day he knew
he and his friend
were too close to part
to invite Him in.
Now his bony fingers fidget,
ink-smudged from a day spent
scribbling away
at our genealogy.
His glasses sit,
powdered in sawdust,
on the tip of his nose.
Even though this is a day
to honor him
(among others),
he has made me a gift:
a mahogany snuff box
with my initials
engraved across the top.

IV: Miss Irene

She was already an old woman
when I came to her
as a beloved only child
left in her care
because my mother
had to go back to work.
I was left behind, tiny and crying,
but Miss Irene took good care of me.
For eleven years
my parents paid
this soon-to-be beloved stranger
to take good care of me.
Between sips of her Folgers instant
and drags from her Kent cigarettes,
between ABC soap operas
and week-long vacations in Vegas,
she watched over me,
her sloe eyes
staring out from behind
her smudged bifocals.
I was her mischief-making charge.
I was a grade school Moses
heaven sent and hellbent
on letting my people go
from the imagined desert
of our playroom.
I was a nosy little liar
whose nose was always running
or tucked into those living room corners
painted with lead paint.
Each time I left the truth out
or just told a tale outright,
she’d point behind her with one hand
at the black velvet painting of Christ
above the mantle
and then, driving her nails
into my wrist,
stare over her glasses and hiss,
“Jesus don’t like it when you lie.”

V: Corrie Mae

Grandpa’s cousin
is the last one to join us.
We all called her Mae Mae.
She was older than him
when he came into the world,
and older still
when she left to meet him again.
Then again,
she was one of those people
who always looked older
than she was.
A thin pale aspen
most often alone
in her whitewashed house,
she was a factory worker
when those were the only jobs
a spinster could have.
Mae Mae belonged to herself
and no one else.
Life wore her down around the edges
till she was like
the perfect skipping stone.
All her time made her seem musty
but never frightening;
she had very deep smile wrinkles.
She taught me by example
how to love walking
just to walk
down roads not forged
but just there
dirt and gravel
flanked on each side
with tall tall sweetgrass
in a world that, for that moment,
simply is.
She smiles her wide snarled smile
then, giddy as the kid
I never knew her to be,
asks me to hug her neck
one more time.

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