A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

“A Letter to Her” by Clarissa Perez

Do you remember when
goodbye left your lips
as I walked away
then looked behind
Mami, I could see it in your eyes
How much you wished you could’ve held me
Like life should’ve let happen

Before fetantyl met you at your front door
And took advantage of your weakness
As you slipped away
Into its arms
And not mine
If only then had I told you
It wasn’t too late to change.

— — —

A letter to her:

Dear Mami,

I hated you.

Carried your sins
And made them mine
Was lost in rage
And when you called always told you,
“Stop calling cause I ain’t got no time.”

But now it’s a
replay your voicemails
and hate myself
kind of night.

Wish I would’ve held you,
forgiven you,
or loved you
kind of night

But I can’t help but wonder…
What does it feel like to be dead and finally free?
Because trust me, I tried to be there
End it all
When I was just seventeen…
Just so I could feel
A false sense of peace.

And trust me mom,
When I woke up in the hospital bed
And felt that I could still breathe
Rage, anger, hatred,
Began to manifest itself inside of me.

Knees laid on the concrete
Where only the skies could hear my screams.
Caught myself making the
sign of the cross…
Only religious when it’s convenient,
Only believed in God when I desperately needed it

From eight to eighteen
I was forced to carry yours and Mario’s
Sins and dysfunctional hearts
In both of my palms

Begged you both
To stop doing wrong
Until I started falling into your footsteps

The same ones I swore I’d never follow
The same ones I knew had a dead end too hollow
but Mami,
This is the pill I’m finally choosing to swallow:

My life is precious
My trauma is not a death sentence
Made my brother a promise
That I’d be the greatest
And I’m gonna show him that I meant it

Gonna live life
Even if my mind
wants to force me to resent it

So forgive me
For all the times that I hated you
For when I cried at night
And felt lonely waiting for you
Because even though you never made it through
I see who you truly are
In me
Every time I choose to live right
And make it through

From your death mom,
It’s ironic that I’ve chosen to live
But it’s not just you
Or my brother
But it’s finally
I forgive.

Clarissa Perez, 2020/21 Youth Poet Laureate Cohort Member, read this original poem to open our Poetry Series event with Toi Derricotte. Performed on the digital SAL stage on Friday, February 26, 2021.