When You Bring Back The Dead, I Will Wear A Dress

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There are only three things I remember about our short two years in Dallas: 1. Being sent home from preschool for eating the wallpaper off the classroom corner I was sent too for talking too much, 2. Jumping off of our fireplace, onto the vacuum and crashing my head into a stone corner bathed in blood, and 3. Wearing this dress.

My mami made me wear this dress, de Jalisco, in preparations for a folklorico dance class she had enrolled me in. I was four years old, and she stood me in front of our new house for over an hour, trying to get me to smile. She sang. She waved. She fake laughed and even guffawed. She danced, and even called my sister to try and joke with me but nothing worked. Nothing inside of me was charged with happiness. Our whole family had just been plucked from Brownsville, TX and transported to Dallas; ten long, flat, boring hours from mi primer amor, my grandma Olivia. I was miserable without her and Dallas was cold, something I was not used too. The dress was itchy and my body felt trapped. All together, the days before this picture was taken was a recipe for disaster.

Looking back at the photo, I can see the beauty my mami wanted to capture, the cultura she wanted to awaken and preserve in me, especially so far from our bordertown. I can see the tenderness she used to approach me and I can see the beauty of the danza of my ancestors. She posed me perfectly, with my hands on the dress like I was about to break out in a full on baile, but I wouldn’t smile. For an entire hour, I wouldn’t smile. As the story goes, she wasted a few polaroids on my frown, until she finally said, “I’m sending this one to your grandma!” And, I smiled just like that.

Fifteen years ago my grandma died. She never saw the smile I wear today, comfortable in my butch body, in love with Erika, raising two brilliant young women, reading my sexy lesbiana stories to grandmas and grandkids, all in pants and button downs, with a skin tight fade – never a dress. But, I’d wear this dress again, if I had a chance to share with her a polaroid of how I turned out today, but only then would I wear a dress.

Anel I. Flores
(c) Sept 10 2018

A Tejana Lesbiana Daydream, for My Mami on Dia de las Madres

When I left home at 17, I searched tirelessly to find a home that combined my Tejana upbringing of musica, asadas, cervezas and dancing with my lesbian world which at the time looked more like white girls in khaki cargos singing love songs to Melissa Etheridge. I longed to connect the warmth of the familia I once celebrated with to my lesbian world, because they were absent during this time and not supportive of my coming out. I drank myself to numbness on most nights, and searched and searched for the feeling of family everywhere.  Finally, in the corner of a bar, one day a week, on San Antonio’s gay drag, within the walls of Petticoat Junction on Main St, I found a space where I could be tejana and lesbiana for the first time. It was 1995-2000 and it was in this bar that I daydreamed I would one day dance with my mother there, tenderly, the way we danced to cumbias and romancias in the kitchen. I learned how to love from her. I learned how to bidi bidi bom bom and cumbia in her arms. But, I knew during that time it would be years and years until we danced together again. “The Next Song” is my daydream of meeting my first love, my mami, in the first place where I felt complete, in the Tejana lesbian bar on Main St one night a week.

This piece is dedicated to my Mami who has worked very hard to make sure I have everything I need and who has taught me to stand up for my convictions- even if we don’t agree on everything.  And to all mujeres who lose thier mami when they come out, she will come around one day.


The Next Song

Ruby probably served me one too many drinks because she knew my garage apartment was one block south of here, and I’d more than likely stick with them after closing for our usual 3:00 am Mr. Taco feast.

I barely saw you across the room, but in the corner of that dimly lit bar the jeweled details of your tejana shirt reflected off the three-colored light fixture pointing towards the dance floor. What were you doing there? Wasn’t it too late for you to be away from home? The smell of forty-year-old throw up should have been enough to keep you out of this old bar.

It always felt like I was standing under the exit sign at one of those weddings in a Catholic school gym, like the one your prima’s daughter threw just recently in San Benito. It smelled the same there, like sweat, old cigarettes and beer mixed together. The music was the same, and the color and density of the fog machine smoke in the air was the same. Except here, women were dressed like the viejos from the wedding, in black tejano hats and tight jeans. And instead of giving me asco, these Tejanos put the aaaaaaa in Tejana when I stared at their tipping hips moving back and forth across the dance floor with another Tejana in their hands.

Tejana dyke night at the bar brought me the closest to feeling like all of me: lesbian, Chicana and Tejana. But after each long night, I always drove back to my apartment alone, with the same knot in my throat I had when I backed out of your driveway for the last time, leaving home three weeks after my seventeenth birthday. You found out from a phone call my lips kissed your friend’s daughter’s lips. You said I could spend the night over there to study. And, we were studying at first, but then we kissed and her mom walked in. After you hung up the phone the next morning, you looked through me like I wasn’t there. I got the hint and got myself out of there, out the backdoor, out of the driveway and to the bar.

In between drinks, I saw you out of bed and in my home, my bar. You weren’t wearing what I imagined you’d be wearing. I was used to seeing you dressed in Sunday, church spring colors and flowy material. At the bar that night, you went beyond my expectations by not only joining me here but by also dressing the part in dark jeans, botas picudas and a pressed shirt. Do you remember when you used to take me to your friend’s baby showers and barbecues? I would dress in pastel colors and linen to please you. I guess you realized how important it was to return the favor. Thank you.

At the tejana bar it was hard to see the details of your shape because of the thick smoke soaked air, but it was easy to hear your rumbling heartbeat because it pumped at the same speed and volume as mine, through the jumbled wiry ritmo of the dj jams.

Pairs of girls, one small and round, the other tall and slim, in one another’s arms stepped on, passed you with one step, then another, brushed briskly against the floor, a third step, and again, over and over. Neither you nor I tired of watching the women dance around the floor in a large circle, following the shuffle of one another’s feet. While I wished the women were you and me dancing in the kitchen like we used to, you were mesmerized by the newness of two mujeres. I understood your curiosity.

I raised my short glass of undressed Tres Hermanas tequila, took a slow sip and choked at the sight of a girly-girl tejana ass crookedly swing by, all alone. If you wouldn’t have been there I’d chase after her myself, but that night you were the one I had my eye on.

I would’ve enjoyed you much better closer on the stool beside me. Instead, I talked to you telepathically, tapping my leg to the beat, but you didn’t get the hint and come over. With your face behind the smoke I tried to pick out your heartbeat between Selena’s Techno Cumbia,” audio-mixed chords, soft steps and smooth glides of the dancers parading in front of me, but I picked up my own heartbeat instead, beating faster than the song and the steps, faster than both rhythms combined. The overlapping of dancers covered you. My right palm was sweating and my left one could hardly hold my drink. I tried to see you, squinted my eyes, bobbed my head around between the small space of their legs or under their arm during a turn, but only was able to make out the milky white of your cheekbone, high and thin. Even when I thought I could see you, you were not there and it became hard to believe the smoke was the only thing blocking my view to you. Did you have any idea I was there? I saw you fan the landscape with your eyes, searching. That bar was the last place I wanted to be seen by you, Mami. I came to the Petticoat Junction on Main. St. to combine my worlds, my worlds of Tejana and Lesbiana. I imagined what I would say if I could go up to you, “It’s just like Ninfa’s wedding last summer! Remember, you watched me closely to make sure I didn’t reveal any hints of my girlfriend and gay friends back home? Why were you in the corner of this bar trying to combine the two worlds, like I do?

The dance floor spread under us. “Do you want to dance?” You gave me your hand. The other toddling dancers circled around us, amazed at our kitchen-mastered moves. My chest pressed forward, the way Papi normally held you, and my cheek leaned against yours. Your dark red, wide smile chilled and warmed me. Mouths hung open around us. The sharp women with their hair cut short on the sides and long in the back let go of their women, and held onto their gold and silver buckles hoping you’d please them next with your hand. Your face of many years and legs that have walked and kicked up many miles stirred everyone, including me. The simplicity of your stance, the not so simple lines of your open child bearing hips, your pancita rolled into a perfect bolillo, and the grace of your feet across the dance floor, built your austere body into a bronze statue. I pressed my hand firmly against your back and kept dancing until Ruby yelled, “last call.”


An excerpt from my book, Empanada: a Lesbiana Story en Probaditas.  

To purchase the book, go to: Korima Press


Publisher Credit:

Flores, Anel. “The Last Song.” Empanada. San Francisco / Austin: Korima & Evelyn Street Press, 2012.

My Queer Mami

When the mamis, abuelas y hermanas weren’t there, I looked around for a fierce mujer to look up to and found, La Erica Andrews. She became my shero. The first queer SHERO I would find and know. And, I’d love her. Still do.

Remembering Erica Salazar “Andrews” on this day.
(September 30, 1969 – March 11, 2013)

Photo Credit : Anel I. Flores Erica Andrews 1996 The Saint 1430 N. Main

Photo Credit : Anel I. Flores Erica Andrews 1996 The Saint 1430 N. Main

Mi Amor: On Our 1 Month Wedding Anniversary

I.

I did not grow or grind the frijoles y tortillitas de maiz that built your strong bones, impenetrable panza and brown eyes lifetimes old:
only the water, the truth of letting pain wash away with the rain,
the coffee that tells secrets black and old,
the burning wood scent of your Mexican border once upon a time home.

From Piedras Negras where you first jumped in the river
to the refreshing waters of Yanaguana where you swam to me,
you are a sweet sour tough mesquite bean pod fallen from my abuela’s tree:
biting down, wooden limbs and feather soft green leaves dart out from my mouth and the wind blows in again.

Woman from Mexico, it’s not your fault you didn’t know
how two lifetimes ago I was a river and you were a hundred year old tree.
But the earth became too warm and I dwindled into a small stream, remembering your legs – and I drifted on

and on through another lifetime where I spotted you again passing by,
until I expired one last time, Mi Amor: I am a life for the third time
alive for the first, a raging ocean between my thighs and a moon reflection in my eyes.

By Anel I. Flores
For Erika A Casasola, my wife
inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Soneto V: Mañana

© Anel I. Flores 2015, All Rights Reserved

Isla Mujeres
Photo Credit © Jorge Sandoval 2015, All Rights Reserved

Body of Water, a meditation drawing in July by Anel

IMG_9012This month is my birthday and I am more aware this year than ever, that I am a water sign. I have learned, most importantly, that water feeds my physical endurance, spiritual connectivity, creativity, storytelling, meditation and even my sex life! My blood moves, stirs and pumps through the veins and arteries of my hands, toes, face, heart, arms, legs and soul. On this day, I meditate on water and how she is my sustenance. Blessed I am to have her, and blessed I am to know how I must care for her and invite her into my life to keep living.

Santo Pancho Pistolas Flores 1997-2014

If you know me, you know Pancho. This morning at about 4 am my Pancho asked to go outside with the tapping of his nails on our hardwood floors. Unlike other nights, Pancho didn’t follow me to the door but took a few crooked turns into the closet and into Erika’s dresses hanging down low. Gently and slowly, I cupped his little belly in my hand and with my other hand cradled him out the back door and onto the porch. He made a few shaky turns and the whiteness in his pupils glowed brighter than before. I knew  his sight, which had been deteriorating, had officially gone, along with his hearing, his hips and jaw. Barefoot, I scooped him up and took him out onto the middle of the grass. He made a few circles around, sniffed the soil around our orange tree, stumbled over a few hanging rose bush branches and passed clearly by our terra-cotta Virgen de Guadalupe statue without a scratch.  I think the smell of the rain spooked him to wake but I knew he didn’t like the rain so I cradled him again and took him inside. Before we  made it back to the bed he was heavy asleep in my crossed arms, with his sweet head hanging off of my bicep so I had no choice but to lay him beside us this morning. He would end up on the bed anyway once the rain started. We all slept peacefully. At 8 am, I received a text from a good friend telling me her two year old daughter woke up demanding to see Tia Anel today. She hinted that her daughter feels thing in others she loves and needed to bring her by to check on me. The rain was already falling when I read the text, tapping on the metal porch roof and waking the house slowly, waking everyone except for Pancho.  For the first time in 17 years, Pancho didn’t want to get up, but wanted to be in my arms.

After a few visits from some of Pancho’s good friends, including the little two-year old Milagro, many hugs and kisses from Jessica, Klarissa, Erika and I, our Pancho, Paco, Francisco, Chancho, Panch, said goodbye.

Now, the thunder crashes and I feel lucky for two reasons. One, Pancho isn’t scared. Two, the universe is crying tears and cleansing his spirit as he travels through to the next life.

Rest in peace my sweet middle child. Born on Madonna’s birthday, you rocked this life for 17 good years. See you in our next lifetime. Say “hi” to grandma for me. Be safe and eat a lot of peanut butter. And, thanks for being my protector. We love you.

 

Extension to July 15th: We invite JOTAS writing from the heart

 

 

We invite jotas writing from the heart. Tell us your desires, challenges, love, deceit and everything in between.

Dear Jotas:
Recognizing the critical need for Queer Latina voices, we invite you to send us your poems, essays, stories, manifestos, love offerings, or rages against the machine. This anthology, to be published by Kórima Press, will be a queer Latina space of engagement that includes lesbianas, bisexuals, trans* people, marimachas, mariconas, dykes, etc.
We invite jotas writing from the heart. Tell us your desires, challenges, love, deceit and everything in between. We’re open to various literary genres, fiction, poetry, personal non-fiction, autoethnography, song lyrics, visual art. Entries may be in English, Spanish, Spanglish, or a mix thereof.
Cuéntanos. Send us your corazón on paper.
Jota Editors:
T. Jackie Cuevas
Anel I. Flores
Candace Lopez
Rita Urquijo-Ruiz
Send submissions to: jota@korimapress.com
Attach a single Word (.doc or .docx) or Rich Text Format (.rtf) document containing the following:
– Contact Information
– 150 – 250 word bio
– A high-resolution photograph
– Up to 10 pages of poetry or prose (250 words per page, max)
– If you’re interested in submitting original artwork, send a high-resolution, black and white image for consideration.
Please be sure to write the following in the subject line of the email: “Jota Submission: YourFullName”
Deadline: July 15th , 2014
Compensation: As a small press, Kórima is unable to provide monetary compensation for submissions. Contributors will receive 3 copies of the anthology and will be able to purchase additional copies at-cost, to be determined upon publication.
About the editors:
T. Jackie Cuevas is a queer writer and professor who teaches in San Antonio, TX.
Anel I. Flores is a Jota-Tejana, realtor, artivista and author of Empanada: a Lesbiana Story en Probaditas, living and working en San Anto.
Candace Lopez is a creative writer, professional fundraiser in the non-profit world, and high femme living in Austin, Tejas.
Rita Urquijo-Ruiz is a professor-jota from the borderlands who lives and works in San Antonio, TX.

 

 

JOTAS

Tortillas de Rodillas

 For my ‘Buela 12 years after her death, on the first morning of rain after 4 months of dry 100+ heat.

 

My knees in this hard seat are starting to hurt.  Mami doesn’t see me wave my fingers at her though the small openings on the back of the chair.  Her mind is on other things – the two dirty forks in the sink and the tamales Tía Chita brought to breakfast this morning that make mami feel guilty for lying that she liked them.  Buela is making her tortillas and the tías are making arroz, some kinda carne picada for dinner, and a calabaza mix with cebollas y chile, all while brewing an entire pot of coffee past the measuring line.  We spend a lot of time together, the mujeres of my family, cooking and preparing meals.  Our brown kitchen-chairs are slippery, and every time I try to get a better look at Buela roll the creamy colored tortilla masa, I slip a little bit down into the dip of the chair where your butt is supposed to fit, deeper and deeper, until I end up against the brown rails of her back.  And even though I want to get down, mami hasn’t given me permission yet.  Even though I am barely two feet from Buela’s cooking space and the voice wall of the tías talking, they don’t hear me or notice me squirm in pain.  I imagine this is what Tío Crisóforo feels in la pinta while he stands for hours against his cell bars, wondering when his date of escape will come.  Las tías talk about him in whispers when Buela’s in the cupboard getting the flour out.  Everyone would rather not talk aboutTío Crisóforo because his life sets a bad example, “for the hijos,” and because Tío’s story makes Buela cry and cry, and sometimes stop cooking.

While Buela cooks, my tías and primas circle around to smell the food but most importantly, they circle in and out of hundreds of conversations overlapping each other and creating sharp clapping sounds with their gasps of excitement and worry.  ¡Bien exageradas!

Today mami’s chatter spills the frijoles of my sister’s menstrual thing she got for the first time.  It sounds like a big deal.

“I sent my honey with an empty Maxi pad box to the store so he wouldn’t buy her the wrong kinds.”

Because my mami is the most güera, the oldest of the cuatas and the oldest of all her hermanas, the other tías listen to her like she’s the priest at church and ask her a million probing personal questions for advice and gossip.

“Oye, did you talk to her?” Tía Chita whispers.

Concerned, Buela asks, “Does little Palomita know what to expect when she starts her period?”

Making the sign of the cross, looking down, and in a straining voice that reminds me of a detective’s tone, Tía Chita who was in the convent for three months says, “¡Ay, dios mío, that means la Lili will be ready for sex very soon now que está menstruating!!  ¿Tienes miedo?”

The youngest tía holds her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh and spray beer on Buela’s masa while she crouches her vibrating body and laughs hysterically without sounds.  The laughing Tía Toña has a pretty bad husband and just laughs at everything, always, anytime, regardless of how serious the chisme might be.  Her sisters are her only sanity.  Pobrecita Tía, she married too early and only because back then Tío Carlito looked like Elvis.

My older primas don’t huddle over Buela’s butcher block beside the stove with the tías; they sit at the table having a chisme exchange of their own, behind me.

“Hey girl, I heard you got your period?  I didn’t get mine,” the cousin who lives in the Río Grande Valley whispers in a low hum, “Does that mean I’m pregnant?”

Secrets jump in and out of my ears. As the baby, I get to hear them all.  Buela talks to herself while everyone’s stories fly aound, rolling and rolling our family version of pan and looking through me, kneeling on the chair in front of her.  I am at her eye level.  She swears once her height was five–foot-thee, and I don’t know how that could be possible especially because that would mean she stood higher than anyone in my family.  I don’t doubt her or let her know that I question her height either.  What Buela says is right; she’s lived much longer and knows what I know, times all those extra years she’s lived plus mine.

“When your Buelo died, I didn’t cry.  I sat in my room at the edge of my bed.  Didn’t cry.” She shook her head like the one leaf left dangling from the nogal after the fall wind blew through.  In her raging tone, she makes sure I know that even without a man, a woman doesn’t cry.  And before continuing her whispering rant no one but I heard, she throws a several pound masa ball onto the butcher block, over and over again until it becomes elastic enough for her to stretch the white dough towards her and watch it quickly return to its original shape.  Her habitual addiction of making tortillas for every woman, child, man and friend in the family holds my attention even when she stops talking.

My Buela went from being, “la esposa de Concepción,” “mamá de las cuatas,” “de la Tienda Guadalupe,” to “la viuda,” the widow left alone with no one to care for or to be cared for.  Between stories, Buela looks away from me, down toward the butcher block, spins the flatteningtortilla to six o’clock and pounds another time down onto its quickly thinning form.  How yummy the tortillas will taste once tostadas, with butter y sal.  They’re toasty and Buela will be wrapping them up one by one in a towel, right off the comal.

“The rich men from the other side of the railroad were all there, eating the little food we had left.  Even the familias who never paid us back after their account receipts burnt up with the store, came to the house the day he died.  Who knows if they were stealing from us? ¡Sinvergüenzas!”

Buela’s eyes tilted up while she told this part of the story and her voice became louder than all the echoing chisme slapping on the wall.

My bruises are already burning and the pain is so hot I pretend my knees are tortillas and lift them from the chair-seat rocking back and forth, up and down, again and again, and laughing to myself at the game I play alone.  Buela’s tortillas de harina deserve to be tended to much more than my tortillas de rodillas.

The babbling of my tías and primas, monotone from its overflo, drowns under the flat hum of the ceiling fan and only my ears recognize the sounds of my Buela’s story.  In her high-pitched, animated voice, Buela keeps on telling her stories.

“I didn’t have a job. Very little money was coming in.  Only enough to pay things off like your Buelo’s burial.  I paid for mine then too, ¡si acaso! You never know!”

In the pity-portion of the speech Buela’s slanted eyes reshape themselves into droplets.

“Everything was taken away from me.  Mis hijos were already married off, except your Tía Toña, but she had to stay with me because she was still in secundaria.  And I thought they were gonna take your Buelo’s last name from me.”  Her eyes look down and get lost staring into space, the way mine do a lot of the times I’m in the kitchen.  Mami added to my Buela’s story with an excited tone, “The first feminists I ever met in the early 50’s were you and dad.  Ya’ll lectured us all the time, remember you would say, ‘¡Yo quiero que mis hijas se eduquen para que ningún cabrón diga que no puenden sobrevivir sin ellos!’  Ya’ll wanted each of us girls to get an education so that no asshole could come and say that we couldn’t survive without him! Remember, Amá?”

She blushed a little after saying the word asshole out loud.  It doesn’t phase the tías or primas that Mami just rudely interrupted Buela’s story because they are so used to just running over their amá’s words with their hasty thoughts.

For the first time, I feel like Buela’s heart is inside of mine; like we are the same person, alone on our knees calling out for someone to notice us, to hear our stories or feel our pain, but there is no response.  Truth is, the tías didn’t want to hear the rough parts of Buela’s story anymore because they hurt and reopen wounds bandaged after their dad, my grandpa, fell asleep and never woke up. Besides, the hitting of the rolling pin on the butcher block drowned out the rough stories.

Into my eyes, she pinned her stare and continued to talk only to me, “but then, when I thought I was all alone, your mami got pregnant with you, mijita, and you became my new mitad.”

From behind the bars of the kitchen chair I am kneeling on, I watch her.  She flips the tortilla, turns it to twelve o’clock, rolls, flips it again, rolls, tosses it like a frisbee onto her black comal, and I stare through her.

 

Tortillas de Rodillas is an excerpt taken from Empanada: A Lesbiana Story en Probaditas.

 Empanada-Book-475x700 Pick up your copy now by clicking on the link!

Empanada: A Lesbiana Story en Probaditas Copyright © 2012 Anel I. Flores.  Korima Press & Evelyn Street Press.

Abuelita Muerto - Version 2