Dream of Despair; Living Is Urgent; On Why a Woman Cheats; No Liberty or Justice for All; A Practical English Lesson for Spanish Speakers

Dream of Despair

One hour to pack all that I own in five suitcases.

Their leather peels like sun-burned skin to the touch. I am

away from home and yet my clothes, my shoes,

my books, the items I carry for luck, the pictures

of people I love are all at my side. What is

there to keep? What to let go? I need to decide,

when I find my room. It’s on the ninth floor of this big

hotel, or is it a dorm?  There’s only one old elevator

and it does not want to work. The stairs are blocked here

and there by mountains of toys and by chains. I bend and I crawl

and I jump, my legs spaghettis, my heart leaps

out of my throat. I’m finally here, but where’re the keys

to open the door? The clock will not stop its endless tick tock.

No way I can pack in less than an hour or carry five cases

alone down the stairs. Worst of all, I have

nowhere to go, no place to call home.


Living Is Urgent


The ICU bed can hardly contain the size

of your body, your swollen feet sticking out

of the covers looking for a place to feel free

of restraints, but you are constrained

by tubes and machines—an arterial line,

an IV and infusion pump, a temperature

probe, a pulse oximeter, an inflatable

cuff, a nasal cannula, a heart monitor.

You feel like a string puppet with a pumping

heart who now wishes yesterday’s tomorrow

had been yesterday’s today, when you were

still autonomous and could walk the dogs,

swim a few laps, read with your son, give

your wife a cuddle on the sofa. What could

wait yesterday has become urgent today.

Today, large clots block the blood flow to your lungs.

No catheter inserted through your groin can hurt

as much as the thought that it could be too late.


On Why a Woman Cheats

Maybe she feels trapped, a solitary gerbil living

in a wire cage, with a bed of straw she can nibble at

until it’s gone, and a spinning wheel that goes

nowhere, where her feet get caught in the fast

spinning spokes and break.

Maybe she meets someone who opens the cage door

and gives her the key, who lets her knit her own bed,

who plays with her on the wheel and shows her how

to get her feet unstuck so that she can leave at her wish.

Maybe that’s why she chooses to stay,

no more a gerbil, captive in a cage.


No Liberty or Justice for All


“Justice will not be served until those

who are unaffected are as outraged

as those who are”

–Benjamin Franklin

“Mami, what is justice?” You ask me on our

drive to school, your ocean-blue eyes fixed

on Benjamin Franklin’s quote on my shirt.

“Imagine I’m Justice and have to decide every

night who, between you and your friend Nate,

behaved better during the day. Imagine I have

a magic measuring cup where you can pour

what you didn’t do right: you blamed Chiqui’s

tail for the broken glass, you didn’t clean up

your toys when I asked you to; you forgot to

brush your teeth after lunch. At the end of the

day, your cup is full while Nate’s is empty, so

I will have to praise his behavior and correct

yours, although you are my son, not him. Being

Justice, I must do what is right.” You seem

content with my answer, unaware that I’ve told

you a lie. I don’t believe there is justice. I don’t

believe that the law is impartial, or that bias does

not exist. And yet, am I wrong if I want to protect

you from the ugliness of the world as long as I

can? Who would want to grow up in a world where

a woman is raped by five men taking turns, then

claim that she asked for it by the way she was

dressed? Where teenage boys are arrested, coerced

to confess to a crime that they didn’t commit and

even sent to death row? Where a business can turn

away a customer, fire an employee, for being gay

or transgender? Where a person can be pulled over for

doing nothing wrong, to be later asked to explain how

a forty-year-old black man would not have a rap sheet?

I stand in your school drop-off line, surrounded

by kids ages four to twelve—white, black, Asian,

Hispanic, Native American—all facing the American

flag, right hands over their hearts, reciting the Pledge

of Allegiance: “One nation under God, indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.”  My throat feels full

and tight. My lips start to quiver.

As I drive away, tears

stream down my face.


A Practical English Lesson for Spanish Speakers

Sit down. Let me tell you something:

In a party full of strangers, when asked

how you’re doing, don’t say you are

constipated, or call the boyfriend of the girl

you’ve just met boring. Remember,

ser and estar don’t exist in English,

but the boyfriend doesn’t know and

you will become embarrassed.

On your sixth date with Robert, your American

crush, don’t ask him if he has preservatives when

he takes you to his room after a slow mating dance.

He will think you’re weird and you’ll think he’s

not the responsible man that you thought he was.

Years later when you are married—with a boy

you are potty training—and go to the doctor’s

for a sinus infection, don’t tell him you are using

the Neti potty. The smile on his face will make

you blush and you’ll want to run as fast as you can.

Last but not less important, watch your pronunciation:

when you want to invite your friend Pete to go to the beach,

ask your son to wash his bed sheets, or beg

your husband to let you focus, make sure you

say the words right. Otherwise, Pete will think

you are shameless—

                 does she want a ménage à trois?

Your son will refuse his task—

                               who pooped on my bed?

Your husband won’t let you focus—

                                         would I be allowed to watch?


Mari-Carmen Marin’s work has appeared in several places, including, Wordriver Literary Review, Scarlet Leaf Review, Dash Literary Journal, Months to Years, The Awakenings Review, Lucky Jefferson, San Fedele Press, Willowdown Books, The Comstock Review, The Green Light Literary Journal, Mothers Always Write, Breath & Shadow, The Ekphrastic Review, Poets’ Choice, iō Literary Journal, Kaleidoscope, Toho Journal Online, Poetica Review. Sepia Journal.