We were homeless

but I guess I didn’t see it that way

because to me, homelessness usually meant

sleeping under a bridge

and pushing a cart full of our belongings

and looking and smelling like hell had struck us

and like hope had never been

part of our lives.

 

That’s what “homeless” looked like

to me.

But homelessness was

very different for us because

my mother was able to beg

our way into a charity project from a church

–a church she had found

by closing her eyes while running her finger

up and down the phone book

while asking God

to guide her.

I guess that’s why I always say that I believe

in miracles

because although I didn’t think so back then,

my mother did make miracles

come true.

And there she was

speaking no English and having nothing

but a couple of suitcases full of memories

and pockets full of hope…the hope for a cure

–the hope

of able-bodied dreams

because she had heard

American dreams involved those kind of miracles. 

 

Looking back, I can see now

how fucking amazing my mother was…

how incredibly strong and resilient she had been

when she refused to give up

and found us a place to live

and made her needs understood

only knowing how to say

“Please, help” in English and everything else

she managed to describe in signs

or flipping through pages

of the pocket size bilingual dictionary

she carried around with her. 

 

That’s how homelessness became a word

of different meaning, one that did not put us

under a bridge

but would have landed us there

if it would not have been

for my mother’s unshaken faith

and her own ability to survive

and create

miracles.

 

My mother has always been

a natural miracle worker—

someone with hands that heal, and words

that build bridges able to connect

worlds. 

She always seemed to be fluent

in the universality of a mother’s love,

and throughout my entire life

I have watched her move mountains

and part seas

and do things only men

had been credited for doing

while women like my mother

have always been the ones

with the guts to do things like

leaving to an unknown country with

an unknown language

and a disabled daughter

because she believed there was more to life

than the pity

 I would have be destined to

if we stayed.

 

How courageous and manly she was

and I say it like that because she did things

only men were supposed to do

like being fearless and sure of herself

although she had nothing assured to her ,

 

and we traveled one day on a one way ticket

to the United States —a one way ticket

to Houston

a place that became home because she

made it happen

and although she never became rich

or successful as success is measured by most,

I have never known anyone else

more capable of spinning miracles

or more resourceful than my mother.

 

Because of her, I have faith,

faith in life

and in the power of love,

faith in my own ability to survive

and find a way to move on

even when I feel lost or think

there’s nowhere to go.

 

When I feel like that, I remember

my mother closing her eyes

and running her finger up and down

the randomly opened page of that phone book

because, she said, God will look

for the perfect place

and the perfect answer.

 

From her I learned

that faith, like love,

is blind.  It’s our ability to believe

we have what it takes to find the answer

and now I know

that even if we would have ended up

under a bridge….even then, 

I’m now convinced

she would have found a way

to make that space

a home.

 

(Above piece was especially wtitten for the April 29, 2017 PM Show (Poetry & Music)  in Houston, TX –Maria R. Palacios)

 

 

 

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