they tell me
a mountain is good for me. disowned by my papa,
I don’t reply—afraid of fathers, decades of dirt.

my cousins would sneer & slop me wet rice—
no mercy for a curse of daughters instead of sons.
a family tree scattered. spit in my tea.

maybe I am unloved because I want to deal
in the currency of ghosts—to traffic in such
precious things as broken rosaries, jars of ash.

when I ask for pardon as I trample knotted roots,
I nod to the spirit inside the wood: duwende, old
man of the mound who snatches bad children.

dirty one, you can’t walk here. I confess, I am
a dirty one. in dreams my claws rake the soil
of my mama’s garden as I search for fallen figs.

my brow ignores its lineage, tries to forget
centuries of gray-eyed Spaniards lurking
my veins, knocking the lumber of my heart.

when I say goodbye to manzanitas, boughs withering,
they tell me I’ll never forget them, that I’ll never
find fruit as familiar as berries at their ripest.

I climb these trees, but in dark churches, hot wax
drips my knob-knees, sweat skimming the velvet
back of my neck. I can’t let go of what I think

is still mine—bloodlines flooding the slopes
of the Cordillera, silver in the hills—pine sap
casing my teeth as I say hello to the oldest apples.

Ina Cariño

Ina Cariño holds an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University. Their poetry appears or is forthcoming in Diode, Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, The Paris Review Daily, Waxwing, New England Review, and elsewhere. Ina is a Kundiman Fellow and a recipient of a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. They’re the winner of the 2021 Alice James Award for Feast, forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2023. Ina was also selected as one of four winners of the 2021 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest.