100 Refutations: Coda


The news of my grandmother’s death reaches me while I’m editing a poem about flamingos. “We can do this later,” my editor speaks from my thumbprint-covered screen. “But,” I tell her, “I might not be here then.” And I’m not. Two days later, in Bogotá, I follow a priest in white galoshes while the weight of my grandmother’s body tugs on my wrist. “Right there,” one of the others lifting her casket whispers, and as we watch the box being lowered on ropes, as we hear the wet thud of dirt striking a wooden lid, the priest mumbles songs I can barely hear, and do not understand.

At night I sleep on the couch in her old living room, beneath a Virgin with outstretched arms and a snake with an unhinged jaw. I flip through the pages of one of my grandmother’s old notebooks by the light of my phone. I press my thumb into a hole in my hand like I accidentally pressed my hand into a nail in a shoddily built wall. A wall of metal fangs, a self-made stigmata on the ridge of my palm, and blood and copper rust, then a day spent at the Red Cross and a night reading the inscrutable tangle of my grandmother’s handwriting by the light of my phone. Letters twisting and curling like nests of wild ivy, like my grandmother’s arthritic fingers, like crowns of paper thorns tossed in the fire. Like a priest’s mumbled funeral song and the beat of shoveled dirt. So I press my thumb into the hole in my hand, and read parallel pillars of handwritten text on the page:

Seize             Adueñarse

Suffocate     Ahogar

Suffer           Adolecer

I listen to radio voices on my headphones discuss the definition of “Asylum” and “Seeker.” But what do these words really mean? Who are these people, really? On the page I read the words “Act,” and, “Abandon.” I roll from my back to my side and back again until I can feel the stomping of my own heartbeat inside my shoulder where the Red Cross nurse slid in a needle, and then I turn the page.

Grasp            Agarrar

Grapple        Aferrarse

Endure         Aguantar

I run my finger over an English lesson, over a poem, over a prayer. Somewhere in Central America a flock of flamingos takes flight, and someone on the ground sees the pink eclipse of a fluorescent blue sky. Then I think of the confusion of feathers and wind, the noise of a flock of bent-nail beaks and backward-bending knees, the muttering of a priest in white galoshes singing songs that I cannot understand, people at the rusty edge of a chain-link border hearing uniformed officers recite instructions they cannot understand. Radio voices and faces on the screen saying, “Animals,” saying, “Babies,” saying, “Cages,” saying that it’s all very simple really, why doesn’t everyone understand? And, I picture my grandmother tucked in a box tucked in the ground, tucked in a corner of the room copying down words by hand so she might one day understand.

Group              Agrupar

Protect            Amparar

Separate         Apartar

Pages and pages and hours and hours of words in pencil and pen, and I think of all the faith and effort it must have taken, all the faith and effort it still takes. Define ‘cage,’ define ‘refugee.’ Define, ‘immigrant,’ ‘wall,’ ‘border,’ ‘animal.’ Define ‘poem,’ ‘parent,’ ‘person.’ Define the reason to travel nearly 2,000 miles in the back of a hot car and on the soles of bleeding feet. Define ‘lazy,’ define ‘fear.’  On an ink-stained page, in the tortured curls of a shaky pen, I read, “Oh, sweet Virgin, help us.”

Assault              Asaltar

Abolish              Abolir

Abandon           Abandonar

At night we sleep in caskets, on couches, and upon cement floors. We curl beside bonfires, beneath bridges, below dirt. We lay down under the fluorescent bulbs of converted hallways reading by the light of our phones and the pink glow of a Virgin cradling trampled snakes and toothless vipers, and we try to understand things that can’t be understood. Because I know it is not this simple, but it’s also not that hard, and we shouldn’t need dictionaries and debates to decipher the wailing of a child.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.


To help more directly, please visit:

Hispanic Federation: http://hispanicfederation.org

Hope for Haiti: https://hopeforhaiti.com

Salvadoran American Humanitarian Foundation: https://www.sahf.org


Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.


Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. (100 Refutations translator and editor) earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University. Visit www.linawritesessays.com.


Amanda Dambrink (100 Refutations co-editor) works as an editor for the University of Wisconsin's Continuing Education, Outreach & E-Learning program in Madison, Wisconsin. She also holds an MA in creative nonfiction from Ohio University, and her previous work has appeared in Prairie Margins and The Normal School, among others.

Copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.