imagino cada abuelo es mío los que están tomando jugo de zanahoria con jengibre en la panadería, the one at the house on the corner siempre leyendo leyendo leyendo el periódico o cuidando a sus nopales, su jardín - green thumbs brown hands could it be him? the old one on the side of the road con sus chanclas waving the eagle snake and cactus green white and red y pidiéndonos por $ nothing more known than he was Indio, y por eso, feo, is what I’m told again and again que tenía otra familia, no, que fue cabrón, no - pues, ¿quién sabe? bueno - gotta love el racismo and here goes trying to relearn the language of the colonizer so that I won’t stand silent if we ever meet, so that we might share at least one mouthful of words and strand of dna try to talk to my dad about death (all he wants to talk about), so that I may speak with the living (split my tongue in half again and again) yet - mi abuelo could live six feet under cemetery or mass grave could’ve made it to the states by now, retired y mirando el atardecer en las montañas de california, arizona, nuevo méxico, o aquí en tejas tan cerca y tan lejos al mismo tiempo eso es y imagino él como caballero, granjero, pero, tal vez podría ser artista, zapatista drug lord, banker, cop, parte de los federales, como dice mi papá en sus vacaciones en la riviera maya sweating out of wide pores like the ones in my inheritance loving the heat despite of it - beautiful, in a way the not knowing puede ser cualquier humano he could be anyone, could be the one not sick in the head body spirit like the rest of us creo que sea posible y this is what I really wish for humming rancheros while carving the bringers of music into wood - planting seeds - un hombre del desierto o las montañas o del mar - el pescador - habla con la luna - el pescador - habla con la playa…
3 Questions for Gaby
What was your process for creating this work?
While sometimes I write from a prompt or a journal entry, this piece was a culmination of different flashes of imagination, blended with told history. So the process was really more of assembling a puzzle, taking bits and pieces here and there and generating the finished poem. The reality is that this piece is one that could go on forever, and so the ending is more of a formality than anything else.
What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?
The hybridity of language in this piece definitely relates to a sense of hybridity in identity, and also a sense of trying to describe the indescribable, you know? Using a blend of language to try to say something that neither language can on its own. It also captures the irony, as mentioned in the poem, of trying to use the language of colonizers to investigate the disconnect between myself (the speaker) and an Indigenous grandparent.
What is the significance of this work to you?
This piece in particular is one that feels really gratuitous, as it is essentially just a written version of a constant daydream for me - the imagining of who my grandfather could be, and beyond that, the imagining of who I am as a continuation of his lineage. It also holds the endless possibility of that dreamscape - the utopia of a person connected to me but outside of the limits of grief and mental illness that exists as part of my family history. Apart from that, this work explores the contemplation of familial disconnect both due to loss of life and anti-Indigenous racism within my Mexican family. So lots of self-interrogation and identity searching here for sure!
Gaby Benitez (she/her/ella), is a queer, Xicanx writer in her quarter-life-crisis living in her evergentrifying hometown of Austin, TX. She writes to make sense of her experience living in this tumultuous world, to make sense of the ways we relate to others, to the earth, and to the cycles of life and death. Much of her writing is through the lens of the body as a borderlands, meeting place, and interdimensional highway for connection. She is obsessed with watersheds, and with the way the elements tie us all together across space and time and universe. Would have coffee and sweet plantains for every meal if given the option.