Mónica de la Torre




The fear is that this pause once again is the general slowdown before traffic comes to a halt indefinitely. Everyone at one with their pace before slamming on the breaks almost too late, as when the connection is unstable and syllables elongate, compress and jumble on top of each other in transmission, and you decide to keep going regardless, To hell with technology, I am just gathering speed, my thoughts finally crystallized into something worth saying. Just then you freeze mid-motion in the most awkward of gestures, mouth ajar, hands gesticulating. You lost the connection, no one heard what you said, not even the screen registered. You’re in a slight panic trying to reconnect before you lose everyone for good and find yourself alone again with your thoughts. A little like Aunt Melita did before she died in a steam room in Cuernavaca, though at the time of the fatal stroke the warm mist took her in its lulling embrace.

Where am I when I am elsewhere and in this room, revisiting pictures of an overdue family reunion.

Posing for selfies we see each other seeing each other on the screen, our gazes’ feedback loops bathing us in love hormone’s glow.

Leo sending you kisses, Jenny peeking from behind with her wide eyes looking into the depths of Mexican soil, by which I mean their synecdoche.

Acapulco with its sunsets invariably postcard-like, especially from the vantage of one of the Northeast’s wettest Augusts on record.

Where my device turns the setting sun into a flying saucer taking me back.

Where Mile tells stories of her great-grandfather’s arrival on the shores of the Atlantic, prompting my father to quote a former president’s appreciation of immigrants from Lebanon: “Whomever doesn’t have a Lebanese friend, go find one!”

Where a gurgling Nico stretches the length of my thighs, gauging the strength of his grip by clenching my fingers while locking eyes with mine. What does he see as I plunge into his gaze outside language?

Let that be the pause.

Let time stop where sunbeams crack open the skies, streaking clouds with iridescence and blazing oranges, turning them into spiderwort-pink landscapes mirroring the lapping waves. The open sky another picture of an interior, its dynamics harmonized, cloud formations coalescing into shapes whose significance eludes you as soon as you begin spelling them out.

My father and I with sunspots that will eventually match. The source of his dimpled smile beyond the frame; his focus turned inward, in hindsight.

Dorothy on a night drive to the Acapulco of a bygone era in search of her late grandmother’s house near the cliffs of La Quebrada, world-famous for its divers, near Playa Langosta. Was the beach narrow or lobster-shaped?

Her nostalgia rhymes with mine as I try to locate the neighborhood where we stayed the summer I donned an Olivia Newton-John headband wanting “to get physical” before a surgery.

These are my pictures, not my disclosures. We’re nearing code red and sheltering in a place not big enough for all of those in all of us.

Cathy’s lashes augmenting her awe of her little ones that matches my awe of her. Once I wondered who she’d be in the future that is the photo’s now. What astounds, is it our age difference or the speed at which her visions materialize.

Write this or unlive. Memory’s future or its undoing.

Leo sings Joplin’s “The Entertainer” whose glossolalic lyrics are made up of the word mañamañamaña. Sure of what he’s saying, it’s his version of mañana maybe, an untranslatable. Once he’s on the other side of language he will have forgotten it.

Santiago, manga-entranced and learning Japanese, awake when we sleep and silent when we talk except for when he thanks us for his meals from a place on the same coordinates as ours.

Ernesto spending hours in the ocean uninterrupted and thus hard to take photos of. It must be the Pisces in him. Green eyes say one thing, mouth says another. Both buoyant.

I lose my spot and revisit the pictures again, dragging the past into the now, palliative for present wants.

My mother, betrayed sunworshipper who sat outside unprotected for too long. I can barely see her in the backlit snapshot of her sunbathing in the bay on the other side of Punta Diamante back in the 1970s, when she’s a still a recent East Coast transplant. Time’s obverse.

Write this or unlive. Memory’s undoing or its future.

Playeros pihuihuí, sandpipers everywhere, undisturbed by my presence as they stand near the surf like families with kiddies wading at the beach.

Not photographed: trash on the sand. Styrofoam bits, plastics, bottle caps, wrappers. Cigarette butts, masks. Abandoned palapas and half-finished resorts near the derelict property of Luis Miguel, the pop star gone bankrupt. People and their dogs breaking in. Faux cement rocks. Construction sites nearby, a luxury building in the shape of an eye, curved futuristic façade surrounded by palm trees here and there. Quad bikes everywhere on the beach, fuel scent spreading in the sea breeze.

Adolfo turned image, standing on the surf and gripping wild caught fish in each hand.

Mikaela in the same band tee-shirt I’ll later see another teenager wearing on the NYC subway. Psychedelic sun. She knows the quad bike’s name, cuatrimotos, her young poet eyes sensing too that this jumble of experiences discarded as material is the future. Too personal for me, for her not personal enough.

A dead tecolote washed up on the sand with hollowed out eyes. Petrified, a child stumbles on it minutes before me. Shocked from the sight, I mumble “Pobre búho” to nobody in particular.

Later there are other owls, one painted, a baptism gift, and three stone ones keeping watch at a nearby brownstone back home in Queens, where a tropical storm pauses to make a clearing for a blue moon to appear.

On this same day, my mother reminds me I was born two months and two days after man’s first steps on the moon. She later leaves me another message saying she gets it, “the flowers and phone calls are nice but of course your birthday always brings you back to where you started.”

“An Aztec century ago, incidentally,” I add, speaking to nobody in particular.

Two months’ worth of rain falls the following day and a half.

Mónica de la Torre‘s books include Repetition Nineteen (Nightboat), The Happy End/All Welcome (Ugly Duckling Presse), and Public Domain (Roof). She co-edited Women in Concrete Poetry 1959–79 (Primary Information), received a 2022 Creative Capital grant and the 2022 FCA C.D. Wright Award for Poetry. She teaches at Brooklyn College.

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