Wherein My Shrink Is My Mother and Jimmy Santiago Baca Is My Father
They divorced long ago. Because they never
taught me self-amputation, I cannot deny
parts of them: Freddie wouldn’t tolerate
Baca’s womanizing for a second. But they’d co-parent
wonderfully. She’d see even during the custody negotiation
he would never shut me down. He’d answer
my questions about drugs and boys with great compassion
lighting the backs of his honeyed eyes. And he’d speak
truth about his panic attacks, alchemize his towering
gifts of language to make me less afraid of the times
he must pull off the freeway to shake the steering wheel
with both hands and scream and scream on
I-45’s unforgiving shoulder. I would have
a father with a great glittering mental illness
at the sunken center of the house – nothing new there –
but we could touch it and speak it and trace
its roots with our fingers. And I’d live
on the Upper West Side and in Albuquerque, both.
I’d hold the Rio Grande and the Hudson Rivers
sloshing in my veins, both, except my mother
would gently tap my knee when it threatens to straighten,
to floor the gas just as the wheels tip of the edge of the cliff.
Ivy Raff’s (she/they) poetry appears in The American Journal of Poetry, Nimrod International Journal, and West Trade Review, among several others. A current nominee for the Best of the Net Anthology, she is a 2023 Alaska State Parks artist in residence, a finalist in the 2021 sweettooth//HONEY Micropoetry Contest. Her work has received scholarship support from the Colgate Writers’ Conference. She’s studied Zen Buddhist approaches to writing under Natalie Goldberg and Subhana Barzaghi, and was selected as the mentee of Kwame Dawes at Atlantic Center for the Arts. Read more at ivyraff.com.