Johanna DeMay

Marcela’s Lament

My husband escaped death squads. Then Hurricane Mitch
flattened our house, buried him with our daughters
under rubble. Two older boys went North.
No one stays in Honduras.

Esteban, my last child, born too soon—see-through skin,
match-stick legs, eyes sealed like a newborn kitten’s.
Tiny fists clutched my hair when he suckled.
He slept beside me till his voice broke,

his upper lip sprouted fuzz. I caught him
in his cousin’s quinceañera dress—
white satin, lace bodice and cuffs.  He grew
his hair long, called himself Estrella.

She went to school daily, prayed every night.
In Bible class the pastor promised redemption.
When she limped home bloodied, a bullet lodged
deep in bone, I gave her my blessing to leave.

No one stays in Honduras. I wrote my brother
Raúl in Baltimore, said Esteban’s coming.
Not Estrella. Now I pray every night.
Señor, por favor, protect her.


At Night

every window gapes wide,
prays for a hint of breeze, a touch
of grace. Hears only the sawing

of crickets, one wing
rasping over another—
rushing rivers of sound.

In pre-dawn darkness
tiny stars glint like a fistful
of tossed sequins.

When sleep rejects me, Night
lures me outside, folds me
into its arms. As a child I lay

face up on the grass, drank starlight
fizzy as forbidden champagne.
Taut nerves quavered in harmony

with a choir of love-drunk cicadas.
Spun-sugar galaxies thrummed
to the same rhythm. Now strobe lights

skewer night skies. Airplanes,
satellites, helicopters stitch horizons
into a grid of glittering flyways.

Yet even blurred, widely scattered,
washed out, each silver dot signals
news of its birth, its death. At night

I close the blinds, take off my watch.
The garden’s been watered. No one needs
feeding, nothing needs fixing. Now all I can do

is look inward—face my foreshortened
future, my ravaged planet’s heartbreak—
cup our twin flames with both palms.

© Johanna DeMay

Growing up in Mexico City, Johanna began writing to bridge the gap between her two languages, two cultures. Retired from a forty-year career as a studio artist, she divides her time between writing and volunteering with the immigrant community. Many of her poems spring from experiences of dislocation — her own and those of the people she serves.

Her poems have appeared in anthologies and journals including Poem, Constellations, bosque, Passager, I-70 Review, The Avalon Literary Review, and others.

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