translated by Edith Grossman
It is a July night
scented with gardenias.
The moon and stars shine
hiding the essence of the night.
As darkness fell
—with its deepening onyx shadows
and the golden brilliance of the stars—
my mother put the garden, her house, the kitchen, in order.
Now, as she sleeps,
I walk in her garden
immersed in the solitude of the moment.
I have forgotten the names
of many trees and flowers
and there used to be more pines
where orange trees flower now.
Tonight I think of all the skies
I have pondered and once loved.
Tonight the shadows around
the house are kind.
The sky is a camera obscura
projecting blurred images.
In my mother’s house
the twinkling stars
pierce me with nostalgia,
and each thread in the net that surrounds this world
is a wound that will not heal.
El cielo encima de la casa de mi madre
Es una noche de julio
perfumada de gardenias.
La luna y las estrellas brillan
sin revelar la esencia de la noche.
A través del anochecer
—con sus gradaciones cada vez más intensas de ónix,
y el resplandor dorado de los astros, de las sombras—
mi madre ha ido ordenando su casa, el jardín, la cocina.
Ahora, mientras ella duerme,
yo camino en su jardín,
inmerso en la soledad de esta hora.
Se me escapan los nombres
de muchos árboles y flores,
y había más pinos antes
donde los naranjos florecen ahora.
Esta noche pienso en todos los cielos
que he contemplado y que alguna vez amé.
Esta noche las sombras
alrededor de la casa son benignas.
El cielo es una cámara oscura
que proyecta imágenes borrosas.
En la casa de mi madre
los destellos de los astros
me perforan con nostalgia,
y cada hilo de la red que circunvala este universo
es una herida que no sana.
From My Night with / Mi noche con Federíco García Lorca by Jaime Manrique. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2003 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.
The woman wore a floral apron around her neck,
that woman from my mother’s village
with a sharp cleaver in her hand.
She said, “What shall we cook tonight?
Perhaps these six tiny squid
lined up so perfectly on the block?”
She wiped her hand on the apron,
pierced the blade into the first.
There was no resistance,
no blood, only cartilage
soft as a child’s nose. A last
iota of ink made us wince.
Suddenly, the aroma of ginger and scallion fogged our senses,
and we absolved her for that moment’s barbarism.
Then, she, an elder of the tribe,
without formal headdress, without elegance,
deigned to teach the younger
about the Asian plight.
And although we have traveled far
we would never forget that primal lesson
—on patience, courage, forbearance,
on how to love squid despite squid,
how to honor the village, the tribe,
that floral apron.
From The Phoenix Gone, the Terrace Empty by Marilyn Chin (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Marilyn Chin. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. Milkweed.org
Some maps have blue borders
like the blue of your name
or the tributary lacing of
veins running through your
father’s hands. & how the last
time I saw you, you held
me for so long I saw whole
lifetimes flooding by me
small tentacles reaching
for both our faces. I wish
maps would be without
borders & that we belonged
to no one & to everyone
at once, what a world that
would be. Or not a world
maybe we would call it
something more intrinsic
like forgiving or something
simplistic like river or dirt.
& if I were to see you
tomorrow & everyone you
came from had disappeared
I would weep with you & drown
out any black lines that this
earth allowed us to give it—
because what is a map but
a useless prison? We are all
so lost & no naming of blank
spaces can save us. & what
is a map but the delusion of
safety? The line drawn is always
in the sand & folds on itself
before we’re done making it.
& that line, there, south of
el rio, how it dares to cover
up the bodies, as though we
would forget who died there
& for what? As if we could
forget that if you spin a globe
& stop it with your finger
you’ll land it on top of someone
living, someone who was not
expecting to be crushed by thirst—
Copyright © 2017 by Yesenia Montilla. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 28, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
Sorry for mercury strewn in veins of fish,
for traces of carbon monoxide loose in the air,
for radiation that circles and enters the aura.
Sorry for deliberate puffs and sips
late in the night, for an empty stomach
burning with coffee grounds,
for words of magma, thoughts rough as tufa
scratching the indivisible cells, fragile nerves,
divisions of labor and function,
for scraping skin until it bled, garnet
scars in constellation form, for chemicals
bathing in a pool of genetics, under viral stars.
I’m looking to cleanse regret. I want to give
you a balm for lesions, give you evening
primrose, milk thistle, turmeric, borage,
feet moving toward a language
of trees, hands deciphering sediment, steady
rhythm back in the pulse, the breathing you knew
before you were born. Believe me that we began
together and I will mend each sheath of myelin,
reverse the dark that grows behind my eyes.
Copyright © 2018 Lory Bedikian. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2018.
It all comes from this dark dirt,
memory as casual as a laborer.
Remembrances of ancestors
kept in trinkets, tiny remains
that would madden anthropologists
with their namelessness.
No records, just smells of stories
passing through most tenuous links,
trusting in the birthing of seed from seed;
this calabash bowl of Great-grand
Martha, born a slave’s child;
this bundle of socks, unused
thick woolen things for the snow—
he died, Uncle Felix, before the ship
pushed off the Kingston wharf,
nosing for winter, for London.
He never used the socks, just
had them buried with him.
So, sometimes forgetting the panorama
these poems focus like a tunnel,
to a way of seeing time past,
a way of seeing the dead.
From Jacko Jacobus. Copyright © 1996 by Kwame Dawes. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.
a day so perfect that
this morning’s awakening bombs
are overtaken by a woman’s wind chimes
of “tamales, tamales.”
on the way to the airport
iguanas hang upside down,
even they smile.
along farms and fields
rotten bullet seeds
are overtaken by flowering weeds.
on the side of the highway
a tall Maquilishuat tree gives
birth to premature pink petals
inside a plane headed north,
yani & i fly so high
that we can’t tell
cornfields from fences;
it’s such a perfect
From Toys Made of Rock (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by José B. González. Used with the permission of Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe.