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by Rebecca Balca'rcel

Guatemala was a place inside my closet. It was a crumpled tissue-paper flower six inches across, turquoise and red, a stack of workbooks that read "Uno, un pajaro. Dos, dos gatos . . ." bought too late or worked too fast so that none of those dancing syllables would pair up in my head. Guatemala was wire hangers wearing ruts in the shoulders of vestidos, dresses inappropriate for all occasions in northwest Iowa, each skirt zig-zagged with pink guacamayas. Crazy green quetzales shouted at me from each short sleeve, teasing me, my navy blues and forests, catcalling, like the blacktopped boys hanging out against the Dairy Queen, boys with butterscotch skin shouting their rollercoaster words, looping their exotic syllables up a scale, flicking cartwheel sounds, leaving me excited and sick, happy (amazed, really) to be noticed and wanting to hide. Which I could almost do in my turtleneck and walking shorts, my knee socks and penny loafers, if only I didn't show my eyes which were obviously chocolate, obviously giddy and frightened, certainly curious and filling fast with wonder at what I might let myself be (and do) with a disreputable hispano boy. I looked straight ahead. Kept walking. And these Dairy Queen boys I stuffed to the back of my closet, with the crumpled flower, the taunting dresses, with the workbooks of the lilting language of my father's country, Guatemala.

Thanks to North American Review in which "Guatemala" first appeared.

Crepe Myrtles
by Rebecca Balca'rcel

Those in full sun have
cracked open their round cases
and flounced out their ruffles,
hot pink vestidos.
They sway under el sol --
whole bunches! -- and unfurl their fiesta frills
from June to September.
We watch their salsas, their boleros,
their cha chas. "Mira!" my aunt shouts
every time we pass. And every time we pass,
they bob and curtsey, they twirl
their sizzling fringe.

This was my introduction to passion:
the flowers, the way they explode into
curls of crepe, and my aunt, the way
she soul-sings the old canciones,
right through drought,
through these long, tangled days after the accident,
sometimes through clenched teeth.
This is what I knew of spirit, espiritu,
that molten stream
before I ever wrote a poem,
before it turned me inside-out, like the blossoms.

Thanks to South Dakota Review in which "Crepe Myrtles" first appeared.

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A book of poems that explore my bi-cultural upbringing, my roles as mom and wife, and my messy, wandering search for meaning in this life

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