"What Can I Say About a Pandemic?"

Iuri M. Lara, May 2020 


What can I say about a pandemic, except- it has me typing in my lab-top, grading, holding zoom-conferences, reading emails,

all from the comfort of my air-conditioned CAR….


If it wasn’t for the pandemic my go-to places would be local coffee shops, my classroom after-school, my kitchen table. While the public places are now closed to the public my kitchen table and every inch of home is open to my children and holding zoom-conferences at home is almost strictly forbidden in front of my four-year old. He made it clear the other day when he needed more milk in his cereal. After-waking up in a grumpy mental fog saying he was hungry-- it’s too early but mom is in the computer and cereal is the #1 priority in this four-year old’s world at 8AM so he goes wild screaming, “No Mommy! You are NOT working, You are not a teacher, that is NOT your job!” 


What can I say about a pandemic? 


There is enough happiness to finally be able to complete some tasks that before seem too daunting, like finally planting sage seeds, finally burying my daughter's umbilical cord, alone, next to our aloe-vera plants and Xiya tree. Hoping to leave the pain I had acquired inside the placenta- I finally offered it to earth. I finally cleaned the storage room in the house, we finally built a sand-box for the kids, finally made them a pretend-kitchen and learning area, finally we take walks everyday sometimes in the morning but mostly in the evenings, finally seeing the colors of sun-down more often, finally hearing, sharing, re-connecting, finally some family members who were not interested in prayer, asked for prayer. 


My cousin, who I've invited to women circles and ceremonies for a long time, got very bad anxiety when people started hoarding supplies from the supermarket. She called my mother the other day and asked my mom for prayers. Hearing her through tears asking for my mother’s prayers was an answered prayer in itself. 


“What can I say about a pandemic...” my mom said. This is the first time my 72 year old mother has experienced something like this, but she says it is not the first-time our ancestors have survived a pandemic. Her grandmother, MamaPraxedis remembers the Spanish-flu in Guanajuato… “that is the plague that ended the revolution,” great--grandmother would say, if someone started with a fever and would not die after the 3rd day, they would make it, but sometimes there were mornings when more than one person would wake up dead in the same house-hold. Great-grandmother said she remembers the mass graves, el apeste. Then, there was my mother’s mother--in-law, born in 1904, Mama-Andrea. She was 15 years old when she became sick of the Spanish-flu, she had already been married two years, since she claimed she was forced to marry at the age of 13 by her first husband. Mama Andrea also claimed she spent an entire month in the small corner of her adobe house, cold and many nights trembling of heat. She did not move for an entire month, her comadres would drop-off food, no-one but her husband willing to care for her. She survived, but by the end of the 30 days her entire hair had fallen-out. 


So what can I say about a pandemic?

There is mourning around me- 

some loud and restless, some silent and holding itself still.

Mourning, still 

like a memory. 


From "Xicanx Affirmations"

You are the moon

And the fertile earth.


You are not what he says you are.


You are fire connected to the earth’s core,

The wind of night.


The split in an owl’s tongue.


Your voice will last.

You are poet,

Infinitely a power of the ancients.


You are love.


You run away from fear and sometimes

While running you think you’ve gotten away

So you rest over the ground and fear crawls

Up your spine.


         But- you have a way with resistance.


You’ve made a pact between the invisible wolves that

Float onto the city and rescue you when you dream.


You do not hear them, they hear you.

You ask for cambio in a cup of tea.


The kind of change that doesn’t make noise,

the kind that that gifts serenity.


The glass of water on your altar is almost empty.

It takes you two full moons to finally fill the glass.


You are not perfect.

You make excuses.


Everyone else is faster than you, but not better.


You question yourself, you question-

it’s what you do best.


You question how but know-

you will survive.

Spiral Notes


from "Trece Poemas"  

Think homeland,                                              Touch

marrow in my bones.

Trace the lines                                                       objects

circling my ankles.

Hear ejecatl voices                                                           labeled

Shouting from my feet.


Imagine my father’s journey

to the U.S. border.                                                      of past

Lines of men

with white sombreros

boarding the coal hungry train                             Civilizations,”

departing Mexico City

for three decades.


Imagine the walk of our ancestors,                 Hear-

centuries across North America.                            I left

Consider grandmothers                                                this bowl

grinding roots, nuts, spices and leaves.    

The grind stone                                                         for you

making a circular pattern,

always to the left,                                                           see

pulverizing memory into rocks.

                                                                                        the squares,


tongues of fire,                                                      circles,

corn stalks in full bloom,                                                   zig-zags,

arrows pointing in every direction,

women with long braids,

burning sage over a mountain.  


Any paper is sufficient as canvas

for tracking memory.



Call Me Mother, Water & Rock Carrier

from "Trece Poemas"


present in the gourds  of all rainbow-red foot walkers | hip magic healers | llerva, spice and medicine grinders | clinging fist eyebrow wisdom keepers | fire-dancer-moon-rhythm makers and dreamers

i am she who holds magic arrows on my palms and knees pointing in every direction | she carrier of willow stick bundles | illuminated woman who prays in caves | outliner of  wrinkles on clouds | maker of healing mountain tops | song that sings their presence forward


she voice of leaves barks and circleDNAstrands on decapitated tree-trunks


water carrier | keeper of bodies  

she water source to bodies of water traveling


she who takes care of rock throwers | civil disobedient benevolent hearts | she willing to take care of the willing, chaining herself to protesters hands, sending wind to carry their wrists and take care of their binding | she 35 year old mother of three laying down in the center of l.a. and orange county’s bedroom traffic 10am, downtown. on city paved mattress eating heat of more than one sun | not chains, hands binding to trust | no pillows | no sheets | no id | no plastic cards | no name, many |  a body, not a name | not one body, many names | not for investigation | not a reference body of water carrying life


                      she luminous


water carrier




across mental borders


she found


in the dark   


swallowing rivers

and singing mountains


midwife of gourds

soldadera de amor.