Jeeni Criscenzo

Sea of Beige
June 2018

When his red t-shirt fades,
in the desert sun,
to blend into this sea of beige tents,
and scorching concrete,
will he remember the red of the Dahlias
his mother once kept in a jar on the table?

Will he remember the sweet scent of his mother’s neck
when she hugged him last?

Will he remember the soft slipping of a song from her lips,
when she last lulled him to sleep?

How long before he forgets the endearing name she called him,
that ended with –ito,
because he would always be her little one?

He is so young,
he could forget her.
Forget what it felt like to be loved beyond all reason,
to be loved enough to risk everything for him.
Forget the days he endured this sea of beige.

He is so young.
This colorless canvas
could erase his memories.
That is how he will survive the unbearable loss.
His tears will be the bleach
that fades the vibrant colors of a childhood,
stolen,

Perhaps,
someone else will replace his memories,
with a different song,
a different fragrance,
a different language,
a different culture.

His ancestors
will rise up in his dreams,
always an ache in his anger,
hidden, forgotten, suppressed

The colors of his memories,
of the red flowers,
the green mountains,
the yellow tortillas toasting on the comal,
will all fade in this colorless desert.
They will wipe his slate clean.

But his Mama,
his Papa,
They will never forget.
They will hear his cries
long after every tear has been wrung from him.

When he was torn from them,
it seared a red-hot festering scar that will never heal,
in the deepest recesses of their soul.
His memory will bleed into every nightmare,
sucking the color from their lives too.

They will not hate us for our freedom.
They will hate us for our cruelty.


Jeeni Criscenzo‘s serious hearing problems most likely steered her toward her preference for communicating in both prose and poetry. Most of her writing reflects her passionate advocacy for those experiencing homelessness — particularly women and children. She founded Amikas, a nonprofit that works to house homeless women and children, and was one of the founders of Women Occupy San Diego. She remains active in supporting many liberal causes, locally and nationally. In 2006 she was the Democratic candidate for the 49th Congressional District, running against Darrell Issa. She’s no stranger to the San Diego City Council and other officials who hold the keys to housing justice, peeling away at the bureaucracy, and speaking up for the voices that have no value to the status quo. In 2016 she was named Women’s History Month Local Hero by KPBS. She is an avid gardener, relentless feminist, performance poet and proud grandmother.

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