All our lives, our wretched
next-door neighbor, La Bruja,
has spit and snarled
every time we tossed the ball
or chased the cat into her yard.
Monday through Friday,
she’d strike a match
and light a candle
for the Virgen de Cobre
or the Sacred Heart of Jesus
to help her as she set up shop
inside the crooked frame
of her living room window—
prophetically reading
the tarot cards.
Monday through Friday
we clung, like bats,
to the chain-linked fence
and chanted bogus
incantations at her clientele.
She’d swear and shout
and run outside
hurling holy water
across the fence,
like John the Baptist,
snagging her long, thin
dress on the spiny thorns
of my mother’s rosebushes.
We’d scream, laugh,
and scurry away
in mock hysteria
when she damned
my father’s bloodline.
“You are raising savages
demonios—” she’d screech
when she’d catch
a glimpse of my mother
hanging two dozen socks
along the crowded edges
of our recumbent clothesline.
But Mami was always too tired
to notice her burning crosses
and tearing rosaries in our direction.
All she wanted was some peace and quiet.
“I curse your womb…”
she used to yell at my mother,
who was too busy
sweeping soapy water
over the edge of the porch
to listen to her wild conjurations.
But the venom in that old Bruja’s blood
runs thick and dark,
because Mami’s cancer
started in that very spot.
La Bruja got all dolled up.
She combed down
her wiry, black-tinted hair,
put on white gloves,
and even came to my mother’s
funeral. After all, it’s Sunday
and business is always slow
on God’s day of rest.
My sisters tell me she’s
crying now.
I do not know,
I won’t look at her.