Marlena Maduro Baraf

After the book

I wrote you panicked
mami mama
mami mama

Did I have a right?

to tell our story
You’re not here to
“It wasn’t like that!”          
             lo dijiste mal.
      que pena me has dado.

    these are matters

I wrote you
in your strippy negligee
your daughter in dutiful

carrying the tray
with hinged sides
and the English
silver setting

“It’s poisoned,”
I say you said
“The maids want to kill me!”

I tasted the food
mami mama
mami mama!

I swallowed.

I never massaged your feet
that’s why

           To be a woman
in a tiny
banana republic who might be just
as glamorous
in Philadelphia
or New York,
or Rome

Beautiful, they say
high strung,
brown tones of sepia waves and curls
eyes and eyebrows

curving planes of a long face
with cheekbones
I was curious,
a happy baby, they say

You understood the weight
the toll of your anxiety
on others
their wish to banish you
And to draw you close

What would the story be
In your words
mami mama
mami mama

          en tus palabras

Marlena Maduro Baraf’s memoir, At the Narrow Waist of the World was published in the fall of 2019. She immigrated to the United States from her native Panama and her writing is colored by this dual identity. Her essays, stories, and poems have been published or are forthcoming from Ms. Magazine, Sweet Lit, Lilith, Lumina, HuffPost, The Ekphrastic Review, 2 Horatio, On the Seawall, and others. To learn more about Marlena visit:

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