October’s dry breeze, its crusted soil
greybrown, clustered in clumps welcomed my grandmother’s
grave, spirit engrained in a wall
made of granite, stamped with gold lettering
boxed and neighbored to strangers, young
and spoiled by frequent lilies.
Last year she lied awake
in a different box, silenced white, fuzzy.
Her eyes slightly rolled back,
her lips ashy and foamed, forced to entertain
a slow tempo of air, ballad of her sleep.
It’s a lie when they say
the bodies can hear, unconscious
and charging on an outlet.
After sitting there for hours I asked her
for permission, anyway,
to step out for something to eat.
I didn’t think, how long is she willing
October apparent and in my hands,
the silver slash of wind against
my unprotected body,
and her last breath, cotton-muffled
unheard, unwarranted. The stiffening
sheets lingered for nine hours after,
the buffyellow desert stain stretched
across her skin and still,
Nicole Rivera is a New York native, born and raised on the Lower East Side– now known as ‘The East Village’. Born into a multicultural family with indigenous roots, Nicole has struggled to find spaces for people of color, specifically mestizas, where she feels a sense of belonging. Most of her writing grapples with family dynamics and how identity informs interpersonal relationships. She studied Creative Writing in Hunter College before moving onto obtain her Master’s in Secondary Education. She now teaches at a transfer high school in the Bronx, spreading her love for writing to any young person she encounters.