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Tourist Trap

My mother enters the marriage, as if through a terminal, misplacing her name like a forgotten glove. She loses the edges of herself. In his country, she becomes a passenger who stares at Mayan pyramids. He pleats the map into an easy square, plots a north of his choosing—everything fits flatly in his hands. He rolls the window down, points to ruins on the left. There are fields of indigo, more pink than blue, a worker stooped among the stalks. Trees a thousand years old. Cities hidden beneath volcanic ash. They seldom stop for a longer look, green ruins crowding the side-view mirror, all that collapse much closer than it may appear.



Her first marriage was a custom-made suit. It fit expensively. Wool, it scratched her skin, smelled like stale cigar and men playing poker. Her husband tasted of single-malt scotch. What she saw in him was a waltz, a little step, what they called pasillo in those parts of El Salvador, or a tune about the bitterness of love. She wore pearls to her wedding, sure sign of tears. When she baked, he kissed jam from her fingers, powdered her with sugar. Bésame, bésame mucho. The stiff fabric of this thing refused to breathe. At night she flew to America and returned each morning to the tiled room. She imagined a little daughter named for a saint who burned and burned, the baby satin in her daydream hands. If she stayed in this country, my mother would become the new song of revolution, murder or be murdered. Her window warned of it, her door. Her closet filled with a rack of tailored bodies, each one unmoving, hanging there.


Jehanne Dubrow is the author of four poetry collections, including most recently Red Army Red (Northwestern University Press, 2012). She is the Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and an assistant professor in literature and creative writing at Washington College, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.