Rosa Roja

The balloon animals wilting in the city’s

only zoo remind me. When I turn

circus, I wear more than costume. I wear

 

my sister, Nieve. White as snow.

Girl whose mama locks

herself inside for days. Girl

 

whose claustrophobic potions

fail her, fingers muddying

leaves & earthworms.

 

Mama out of focus

with her heft & weight

her cold tortillas.

 

She calls me cochina. Pig child.

I tug at my basalt-

black hair, woven

 

with ribbons like myth

Mama fixes each morning to soothe

her nerves, combing & brushing

 

me smooth. When she’s angry

she leaves on my cheeks

hand-shaped splotches redder

 

than the birthmark on my neck

where she says

I was kissed by God.

 

I wonder what ice-cream tastes like

in heaven. I wonder if the growl of

mountain lions is real (Why are you here, child?)

 

& the answer is Nieve.