A Pain That Is Not Private

There is a time and place in the world for abstraction. When my mother left Puerto Rico for the first time, the year was 1968. Against my unknowing. We hesitate to say what intimacy is and whether or not we have it. I keep trying / to teach my students that / stream-of-consciousness is / this, not that / this / activity fails. We know it does because each of us leaves the room / feeling like barbed wire— snarling behind the barricade (because) at some point, we stopped feeling (like language could say). So we went without while some others embraced. Notice (after the emptiness) : a pain that is not private. In other words, focus not on the object, but rather, the light that bounces off of that object. Perforated. Estranged. Esa luz. Tómatela. Under that light° I felt my body try / to hold on (to the knot inside) your right hand; when did it become a fist? Remind me what it is again / what it is that you wish / to share (with others) >> when you’re on stage…
 
                                  °That light, this pain (what never translates).

Related Poems

The Living Teaching

You wanted to be a butcher
but they made you be a lawyer.

You brought home presents
when it was nobody’s birthday.

Smashed platters of meat
she cut against the grain.

Were a kind
             of portable shrine—

             I was supposed to cultivate a field of bliss,
             then return to my ordinary mind.
                                                     

You burned the files
and moved the office.

Made your children fear
a different school.

Liked your butter hard
and your candy frozen.

Were a kind
             of diamond drill, drilling a hole
             right through my skull―

             quality sleep, late November.


What did it mean, “field of bliss”―

A sky alive “with your greatest mentor”―

I wore your shoes, big as boats,
             flopped through the house―

             while you made garlic eggs with garlic salt, what

             “represents the living teaching”―

Sausages on toasted rye with a pickle,
and a smother of cheese, and
frosting
             right out of the can without the cake―

You ruled
             with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other, you raged
             at my stony mother, while I banged

             from my high chair, waving
             the bloodied bone

             of something slaughtered―I was
             a butcher’s daughter.


So all hail to me―

             Os Gurges, Vortex Mouth, I gap my craw
             and the bakeries of the cities fall, I

             stomp the docks―spew out a bullet-stream
             of oyster shells, I’ll

             drain the seas―the silos
             on every farm, the rice

             from the paddy fields, the fruit
             from all the orchard trees, and then I’ll

             eat the trees―
                                   
             I’ll eat with money and I’ll eat
             with my teeth until the rocks
                 
             and the mountains curl
             and my blood sings―
                 
             I’m such a good girl
                 
             to eat the world.