Friday Poem

Nana Worries About Her Father's Happiness
in the Afterlife

He knew nothing about death,
before he died.
None of us did.
Then he died,
and I was left to wonder where he went.

The Nauhas sent their loved ones,
accompanied by an escuinctle,
to travel for four years:
before reaching Mictlan:
Region of the Dead,
also called “Ximmaoyan”—,
Place of the Fleshless.
Mictlan: The House of Quetzal Plumes,
where there is no time.

Jesus descended into Hell
for three days,
freed his predecessor, Adam,
and returned to earth.
Oh—such stories I have heard!
Men and their intentions.
I did not know what to think.

I looked about the room, held his hand,
his mouth open, having gasped
for his last breath of this life.
He was no longer in a sweat.

I wish I knew where he was—
floating above, near the ceiling,
perhaps, like those near-death cases report.

Was he pleased with our Christian
praying over the corpse,
our reluctance to leave him alone?

A cold winter Chicago night:
Ash Wednesday, February 28th.
The uselessness of doctrine in
These times. Ma and I decided
two things with that in mind:

This is Hell.
This is not the whole story.

by Ana Castillo
from After Atzlan
publisher: David R. Godine, 1992