How I Taught My Mother to Write Her Name

How I Taught My Mother to Write Her Name


when the time came ripe

away from the field work

mom and dad in secret eloped

a hotel bungalow room down town

San Antonio, Texas near The Alamo


grandfather Madaleno, Maya Healer

beneath kerosene lantern tossing

stories against the darkened walls

in a broad revealing smile he and

grandmom Guadalupe with her long trensas

braided grey brown down to her waist knew

where mom and  dad were they waited to see

if mom would return home she did not they married


moved to a tin roofed one room shack near

abandoned railroad tracks Madonna, Texas

Robert B. Green Hospital where I was born

one year later our family spoke of life before

                                                      the telephone



                                                            indoor plumbing

                                                            outdoor ice box

chickens  running free corn and indian apples

a tree with little green peas picked for war with brother Felipe


grandfather graduated from field work

he was accepted for work at a flour mill

mom dad and I travelled north with uncles

Juan and Canuto and grandfather Juan Sr.

\long long migrant harvest journey homeless


Austin   Round Rock   San Marcos   Corsicana   Tyler   Texarkana

Little Rock   Saint Louis   Indianapolis    Fort Wayne    DETROIT

1400 miles before freeways as Crow crawls through occupied territory


Before I teach mom how to write her name

to watch the glow in her eyes she never experienced before

never went to school dad was pulled out of the 3rd grade we headed

northwest to the shore of Lake Michigan   Mears    Ludington   Traverse City

field work then east where jobs at the steel plant secured our family 30 years


he slaved the racist insults by his foreman until dad knocked him

on his ass with one blow to the chest his co-workers defended dad

so he would not be fired dad spoke little English so he kept track

of his job with schematic drawings and scribbled translations of gears –

wheels —  schematic location of tools he graduated to mill wright


by age twelve I paid my union dues

sold newspapers on the street

caddied for golf then the carwash


mom at age 38 walked on

strong with love and roses

I volunteered for military service

honorably discharged worked

the same steel mill where father worked

marched against the illegal war in Vietnam

attended university the first to do so

became a social worker for 34 years


Capital F-e-l-i-c i-t-a-s-

I recall vividly how mom smiled

proud upon writing her name

she stared at the paper for the longest

time wrote her name over and again ….


I was grateful when she brought lunch

to my room on weekends while I toiled with

homework writing poetry the beginnings of art

drawing WWII aircraft the Zero, Messersmidt 109′

U.S. Navy Corsair, Mustang, P-38 Lightning, the Spitfire


I was sixteen when mom passed

Felipe was fourteen

Guadalupe twelve

and Veve / Felicitas nine


                                                                       Aztatl X


This entry was posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o Art, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o Healing, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Literature, Chicana/o Poetry, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Prose, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Underground, Chicana/o Youth, Community, Cultura, Decolonization, Education, Family, Gender, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Language, Mexican, Movimiento, MuXer, Palabra, Resistance, Sin Fronteras, Social justice, Student Empowerment, Unity, Xicana, Xicano. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *