Seven Ways to Hold On (poetry)

by Maira Rodriguez


It’s the spring of your 18th birthday
and morning cloaked in black grieves. You gather a fistful of dirt, drop some
in your pocket, look to opened metal gate at green paint you applied last summer, now a shedding skin. NO TRESPASSING sign stomped into ash in the driveway, silent lights of cop cars block entrance, stand by as bumblebee men with yellow helmets unravel a limp python,
watch it spew its inner river

7 Ways to Hold On


Linger at the door now seeped in black soot, hanging on a hinge as if drying,
the one with the drawings you scribbled
in first grade with your big brother’s green sharpie. Determine the last time you closed the door behind you and felt safe, the fire too strong, and this is where it all started, faulty wires surged, a deadly sparkle traveled, and the door tried like you

now try to find traces of your ink


Memorize the room with the half-melted 1st place trophy you won freshman year, remember where it sat on the now invisible bookshelf, rescue what you can of the bed you shared with your older sister until you were 12, until mom and dad could put forth 5 years of savings to make more room

for growing. Pick up a shiny key that survived unscathed from under a water-soaked pillow, wonder what memories it’ll unlock


Thank the alarm clock for waking dad an hour early on his day off, the dogs

for barking at your little sister’s door
and leading her out the back, the roof
for holding on until mom woke up,
thank her lungs for forcing her awake, and the highway that lead you away
after an insomniac night, the rosy dawn for summoning you from your bed, away from sure death and being your escape

Reconstruct a copy in your memory where trees don’t resemble burned matches, rains give in unashamed
to cleanse the air, where stars beam brighter than flame. Say goodbye
to the structure but hold on to the key, look around at the land, it remains scarred but will recover with time, and let the coyotes in the llano
let loose their song of bark and whine


Wave to a shadow of a girl twirling in a dress. Her scattered books are now ghosts, and she will hold on to what this house use to be,
but you will look ahead, create something new. Peer through windows that didn’t explode,

fog up remaining glass with heavy breathing, draw a heart with the tip of your finger,
let the house settle and try not to implode


Stand at the base of the kitchen where mom cooked brown sugar love into empanaditas, walk an endless circle around a reincarnated dinner table, run your hand over air, dust flour off your jeans, pull open a charred
oven lid and gaze into the depths, don’t let it swallow you, close your eyes and taste
bitter metal, sour ash, sweet, sweet cherry pie