A Poem by Janel Pineda, from The BreakBeat Poets, Vol. 4: Latinext

June 18, 2020  By Janel Pineda

the first time I ask Tana why she left El Salvador,
me dice: porque allá llueve mucho. its waters too vast and devious,
too quick to wash away everything she’s worked for.

for weeks, Tana watched horizon fall to earth
from bus windows. she held on tightly
to herself, and the thought of mi mami, su hija,
borders away and alone somewhere in the capital.

no hay tiempo para esas babosadas, she thought
wiping her eye-made rain away.
she massaged her bloody feet into silence,
her throat aching for just one sip.

for years, I am afraid of rain.
I am six years old and praying for sun.
when rainfall begins, I run
indoors, am caught somewhere
by my elementary school teacher
in a cafeteria corner, crying.
I am six years old and believe
every time it rains, it is time to flee.
I am six years old and afraid
of being left behind.
I am six years old and my blood remembers
what it feels to leave
a whole homeland behind.


a Salvadoran woman once wrote that
our poetry has never had the luxury of being enamored with the moon.
perhaps this is why all my poems are about the sun,
about coming from women who have survived by chasing it,
women who go only where the light will feed them,
women who leave the second they suspect a flood.


Excerpted from The BreakBeat Poets, Vol. 4: Latinext, a poetry anthology by Haymarket Books. 

Janel Pineda
Janel Pineda
Janel Pineda is a Los Angeles-born Salvadoran poet, literary scholar, and activist whose family fled the US-sponsored Salvadoran Civil War. She is a Macondista and a founding editor and translator for La Piscucha Magazine. Janel holds a BA in English from Dickinson College and is currently pursuing an MA in creative writing and education at Goldsmiths, University of London as a Marshall Scholar.

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