23 and Me A poem

By Claudia Meléndez Salinas
for Víctor

I carry a nopal on my forehead
generous fruit of this land
medicinal, nutritious, thorny
patriotically green and insurgent
arrogant and life-giving

I carry a nopal on my forehead
undeniable sign of my origin
Mixteca, Cochimí, Miwok
Sixty percent Tenochtitlan
Thirty percent Isola d’Elba

I carry a nopal on my forehead
The cactus that told Nahuatlacas
They had arrived home
to the lake of abundance
of eagles and snakes
a place for hunting and rest

That ironic nopal paints my face
the color of earth, of clay, of copal,
of corn and squash blossom,
of epazotle and huazontle,
of nochtli and etl,
of cacahuatl, chocolatl,
guajolotl and aukatl.

Nopal of Zacapoaxclas defeating the French
of Tlaxcaltecas making alliances with Cortez
of Malintzi giving birth to Martin
of Coyolxauhqui hunting Coatlicue

Nopal of talavera, of barro negro
of colonial furniture and Santa Clara’s candies
of Papantla flying pole dancers
of Taxco silversmiths
of Yancuictlapan weavers

Opuntia ficus-indica
giver of life
of protein, calcium and iron
of soups and salads
antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
armor against diabetes
machete against cancer

This nopal on my forehead
it’s banner
it’s volcano
it’s eagle and it’s pride
Aztlán, Hah-nu-nah
Refuge of egrets, Turtle Island
registry into the Navajo, Luiseño, and Tsimsian nations
sustenance for our heirs
to combat droughts and famine
wars and conquest
swords and Bibles
for centuries to come
and a few millennia more.

Puebla, Mexico, July 2018

Claudia Meléndez Salinas

About Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Claudia Meléndez Salinas is an author, journalist, open water swimmer, and cat lover. | Claudia Meléndez Salinas es autora, periodista, nadadora de aguas abiertas, y aficionada a los gatos.