Reimagine Seattle: Aleyda Cervantes

The challenges of the past two years have changed the way we live, the way we work, and the way we show up for each other. They have also given us a rare chance to collectively reimagine our future. Through the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project we invite community members to reflect on their current experiences in Seattle, how they have been impacted by recent events, and their hopes for the future of our city.

If I had to reimagine Seattle, I would have to think about the land first. I would have to think about the first nation people who have protected and taken care of the land. Below all the pavement, below all the construction and tall buildings, there are all these stories.

I moved from Mexico thirteen years ago and, like so many immigrants, I felt a lack of belonging to Seattle. Immigrant mothers and immigrant women made me feel welcome here; Indigenous people and their fight for justice reminded me that, as a guest here, I have a social responsibility to this land and water; and a community of Black, Indigenous, and people of color writers reminded me that a better world is possible. As a writer and poet, the best way to reimagine is with poetry. As writer and activist, Jacqui Alexander asked, “What does it mean to be a refugee in a world on fire?” This question guides my writing. Can poetry become resistance in all languages and regions? I write with the land beneath my feet, the rainwater from the Coast Salish territory, and the air I breathe. Reimagining Seattle means remembering that poetry is a tool of solidarity. My pen and writings are and will always be at the service of my community in any language. Poetry is an action verb.

All the poems are Seattle-inspired.


On Storytelling

The small town by the west of the Pacific Ocean came down                                                               
with rare case of melancholy. The fishermen looked down at his feet and let go of all of the
salmon, looked down at their hands, and wonder if they ever served to build something.
In the houses, children stayed inside forgetting about the once upon a time stories they had
Nobody remembered the meaning of play,
No farmer was found near the land,
no seed planted in the soil.
How did they make medicine for the sick when they didn’t know the disease?
People in the town wandered with eyes wide open and empty dreams.

Finally on the third week of March during the heaviest rainfall of the month
storytellers gathered the townspeople and
cracked the earth open
and begin naming the nameless,
singing together an ancient chant of collective memory,
an intergenerational braiding between children and elders
so they will never forget again
que son la cosecha de la tierra que los vio nacer,
and they belong to the land.  

People of the Whale, Sound of a prayer 

All lands that touch all ancestors,

Where firefly’s light migrate into a luminescent bay

As the beauty of bodies belonging to nobody

Are held in between braids, in the sound of a prayer
Where firefly’s light migrates into a luminescent bay

People of the whale, stuck between seen and unseen

Are held in between braids, in the sound of a prayer

As if death is another metaphor for this life
People of the whale, stuck between seen and unseen

All I hear is a Salish Sea calling us home

As if death is another metaphor in this life

Chasing us in this moment
All I hear is my mother calling me home

As the beauty of bodies belonging to nobody

Chasing us in this moment.

In all lands that touch all ancestors
Breath all kinds of mingle

Where I don’t know a holy bible but the palms of your hands

And then you tell me I’m not her

Are we forgetting the wars and flesh?
I don’t know a holy bible but the palm of your hands.

So my bones don’t rattle my skin

Are we forgetting the wars and flesh?

All human blood is bound  to ocean waters
And my bones don’t rattle my skin

Don’t you feel it burning?

All human blood is bound to ocean waters

So tell us we are winning,
While this body is reborn again in the prayer of my grandmother.


Mirrors

When we look inward

  forced to face the Shadow-beast

and the smoke mirror disappears

in the forest or by the beach,

at that moment

we become rooted.

When we understand our own mortality,

but never crave lasting youth,

when we become free

from label addictions,

there, by the shoreline

we become infinite.

When we open all the pathways                       

in between us,

  retrieving all the lost photographs

in the mountains or by the dessert,

we become history.

Now

  near the river,

both feet deepen into the mud

At the edge of decision

here,

we become migration.

Aleyda Marisol Cervantes, or Mari for her familia, is a self-identified third-world woman who was nurtured and raised by strong mujeres de maiz in a small town in Mexico. She graduated from Fairhaven College with an Interdisciplinary major titled “Solidarity Across borders: Understanding Experiences and Imagining New Realities through Storytelling” and a minor in Education and Social Justice. She is a TEDx presenter and an advocate for immigrant communities. Her work appears in PALABRITAS, Acentos Review, and the anthology We Need a Reckoning. She currently tries to make time to enraizar herself in her body by writing and imagining a better world is possible in occupied Coast Salish territory. Follow her writing on Instagram @raices_press and Twitter @PressRaices.

Submissions for the Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project were commissioned by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. The opinions expressed and information contained in each submission do not necessarily reflect the policies, plans, beliefs, conclusions, or ideas, of the City of Seattle.