My mother comes back from the dead as a sigh, as a yearning. I remember her touch on my forehead, a fever. Late at night, her hand on my chest, making sure I was breathing? My mother comes back to me as a need to look out the window at nothing. She comes to me as hunger for something I can’t name. She comes back for a night of looking at old photographs and letters, patting flat the curling edges with arthritic fingers, my fingers, her fingers, her hands. She leads me to an old letter where she worries in her flowing script that I’m not getting enough descanso. Without a deep sleep, you will not dream, she tells me in her poetic Spanish. And without los sueños, que es la vida? Without dreams, what is life but esperanzas y tristeza? My mother comes back from the dead as a sigh, as a yearning.
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JUDITH ORTIZ COFER was an award-winning novelist, essayist, and poet. She is the author of Peregrina, An Island Like you: Stories of the Barrio, The Latin Deli: Prose and Poetry, A Love Story Beginning in Spanish, and numerous other works across poetry, fiction, nonfiction, young adult literature, and children’s literature. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, The Norton Book of Women’s Lives, and The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Cofer passed away at her home in Georgia on December 30, 2016.