Photo credit: Alexander Solomon
This reflection was originally performed at The Prophet’s “Tongues of Fire” spoken word event.
By Melissa Martinez
It’s the question I keep asking myself. Over and over. Someone commits yet another microaggression against me. Why am I here? My heart yearns for the land that my Daddy’s bones are returning too. I miss him. The land is a piece of him. Why am I here? I look for food that tastes like home. I’m hungry. This hunger is deep in my soul. The Whole Foods has never heard of tomatillos. Why am I here? I gather with the women who look like me. They are tired. There is no joy here. Why am I here? The people here are anxious. Strung-out on the highs of achievement and success. They talk at me, a million miles a minute in words I know but do not understand. Why am I here? I end up in a class called Christian Mission, but it should be called Colonization. The professor is a colonizer. She seems quite proud of this. I can’t breathe. My body remembers. Why am I here? The land has not forgotten. I arise and mourn every day. Why am I here? I attend a mandatory lecture on anxiety. A white man introduces the Blues. He tries to explain it to us. As if I don’t already know. He has no understanding of susto. He doesn’t know he needs a limpia. He compares our anxiety to his dog’s “attachment disorder.” He thinks his research makes him an expert. Why am I here?
I haven’t been to church in weeks. Haven’t prayed. Have tried to ignore how heavy the word god feels in my mouth. Is this how Jesus Christ felt when he was nailed to the cross? Forsaken? Suffering is a theology that is hard to flush out. It is hard to ignore the ringing echoes of sacrifice. Sacrifice for la causa. Sacrifice for mi gente. Sacrifice myself for my future and my future family, just like Daddy did for us, and his Daddy before him, and so on.
I keep getting flashbacks to bad things. To my past. To things I’d buried and hoped to forget. But my body remembers. These memories are bursting up, begging to be dealt with. I try to run from the emotions. They threaten to drown me. I need a limpia too. I can’t find a botanica anywhere in this god-less city. I wonder if this is their penance—the colonizers. These people have no joy. There is no love here. This feels like a performance. Why am I here?
Truth is I’m tired. I don’t know why I’m here. Maybe it’s not time for me to know yet. God may have forsaken me. But Spirit has never and will never abandon me. My honorable ancestors would never ask me to sacrifice myself in this way. They brought me here to heal. I am here to claim a life outside of suffering for myself and in doing so, I claim it for my people. The suffering ends with me. The reason I’m here comes to me like the ocean—at times crashing over me with a force so clear and powerful, and at others it pulls away deep into the belly of the ocean and I can’t feel it at all, I can barely see it. Johanna Toruno said, “The reconciliation of life can be just as difficult as the trauma.” It’s true. When my Daddy transitioned into the Spirit Realm, pieces of me died with him. Pieces of me that needed to be put to death so that I could live. I was in the tomb for months before coming to Boston. I faced my Shadow Self. I looked in the mirror and I leaned into all that I saw reflected back at me. I learned to love that reflection. Now here I am, resurrecting. The world around me is as changed as I am. It is hostile. Aggressive. Busy. Intense. And I am soft. Exposed. Vulnerable. Raw.
I keep seeing honeybees. I think about their ability to sting. How people fear them. But they also bring such joy. Spreaders of life. Creators of sweetness. My skin looks like honey. Maybe I can be sweet again, here. I know how to spread light. I know how to spread life. I know how to spread joy. Love is a radical act of transmutation. It is the only way to Ascend.
Melissa Martinez is a brown badass bruja from the barrio who is openly queer and unapologetically herself. She writes on lived experience, exploring trauma, joy, and grief as spectrums that intersect, from the perspective of her reclaimed identity as a descendant of the Mexica tribe. She is intersectional, interdisciplinary, and interreligious.