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Mud City is an online literary journal promoting the ideals and vision of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Low Residency MFA Program.

Wendy C. Ortiz

 Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of   Excavation: A Memoir  (Future Tense Books, 2014) ,   Hollywood Notebook  (Writ Large Press, 2015)  and the forthcoming   Bruja    (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016) . Her work has appeared in  The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency ,  Hazlitt, Vol. 1 Brooklyn , and  The Nervous Breakdown , among other places. She lives in Los Angeles.

Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, 2014), Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, 2015) and the forthcoming Bruja (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Hazlitt, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, and The Nervous Breakdown, among other places. She lives in Los Angeles.


My daughter began her journey out of my body on the day of my grandmother’s 95th birthday 

My grandmother was in a bed for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients over the hill and far away 

My grandmother taught me how to get out of nightmares. We practiced. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

She hated men. Birthed two children. Loved her son and held her daughter in contempt. Her son died before he was twenty 

My grandmother now had a single daughter. Just as my mother has a single daughter 

East L.A., the sound of the freeway, chicken and rice, my grandmother’s cats playing with their shadows 

The three of us loved a Sunday in which food, reading, and television played a large part 

I perused her collection of National Enquirer and Star magazines. I lingered on the gratuitous and plentiful photos of bikini-clad starlets. I shook out the pages and turned them when someone happened by my shoulder 

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters 

My mother asleep in my grandmother’s bedroom 

We read the Book of Revelation 

He restoreth my soul 

I dreamed often of the whore, the harlot who rode the beast with seven heads. She was hot. I wanted to be her. Who didn’t? 

Imagine your whole body being burnt over and over and over again. For eternity. That’s what hell is like, she said. I closed my eyes 

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake 

My grandmother’s bed, where I often ground my body into the mattress to make myself hit nirvana 

Over and over 

I could imagine what sustained burning felt like when I got tattooed the first time. Again. Again. Bigger. More tender places 

My mother: Well, at least it won’t be lonely in hell. All the best people will be there. She exhaled a gray stream of smoke, her forever halo. My grandmother frowned. I tried not to laugh 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil 

In the bathtub, underneath the window, I lay very still. On the other side of the door, I heard my grandmother’s voice. What are you doing in there? 

My grandmother did not smoke or drink. She became ill from sunlight 

This also worked to preserve her skin, the skin that earned her the nickname güera from her family 

My grandmother often told me she wished I had green eyes 

For my fourteenth birthday my grandmother gave me money for colored contact lenses. I chose a nuclear yellow. She was not pleased 

She would often tell me that when she died, she was going to ask God to let her speak to me 

My grandmother died just hours after we signed the papers that would land her in hospice. She died at a Catholic hospital 

I found this fitting, since she had begun Catholic. She spun out into Pentecostal later 

I don’t have to answer her call

For thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me

I might not 

Now I just look for her in hummingbirds and birds of paradise 

But I might 

When I got out of the bathtub, dried, clothed, the water drained, she said, Do you like looking at yourself in there? 

I knew from how she asked that I should say no

My grandmother died the day after the love of my life, our daughter, and I walked a labyrinth 

I didn’t know my grandmother’s god anymore, but I told whomever he was to take her 

Her great-granddaughter was a chubby five-month-old. They had never met. I could not take her into the room because my grandmother had pneumonia 

Underneath the crucifix, I told my grandmother of this cherub born two days after her birthday 

My grandmother’s blanket thrown back, her impossibly smooth pale thighs 

I did not tell her they were both Scorpios, as my grandmother did not believe in astrology 

On the January night the love of my life first inseminated me, my grandmother was in another hospital just a few blocks from our house 

My grandmother was not lucid by the time I was living with my girlfriend 

She was not lucid by the time my girlfriend and I registered as domestic partners or began inseminating in our bedroom, our friend and donor in our guest room 

When I did not become pregnant that first month, I was convinced my grandmother’s proximity to us had something to do with it. She had disallowed it 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies 

Or, I wondered, maybe she would die in that hospital, and I would carry her spirit baby 

We used to love watching Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. My eyes fixed on the black V of her dress 

My grandmother did not tell very many people, but her given name? Elvira

“Mary” was what people knew her by. She left Elvira back in Texas, a shadow part playing in the fields where she had picked crops 

The following month we changed our approach to include an orgasm before and an orgasm after the love of my life depressed the syringe of fresh semen into me 

I got pregnant 

The due date of our baby was around my grandmother’s birthday 

I knew she’d get her claws in there somewhere. Scorpios 

And this sweet innocent being began her descent on the twelfth of November as I napped on the sofa 

Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over 

I forgot it was my grandmother’s birthday. I forgot until she died almost six months later 

My grandmother would die not knowing I was tattooed. I was queer. I had given birth. I had added another girl to our line 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life 

And to this day I still recite these words in nightmares 

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever 

And I magically wake up 

And ever