SOMOS Fa l l 2 0 1 7
L AT I N X L I T E R A RY M A G A Z I N E
SOMOS Fa l l 2 0 1 7
L AT I N X L I T E R A RY M A G A Z I N E
Representing Latinxs and Latinx Culture Through Poetry, Non-Fiction, and Visual Art
Cover Painting: Lo que el fuego no quemó by María Arbeláez
Letter From the Editors
The works in this magazine provide a compelling critique of our society’s most harmful narratives, ones that tend to target individuals who do not yield to colonial and capitalist norms of identity, body, and sexuality. Inspired by a belief in the possibility of change and employing the power of imagination, these pieces foster the empathy and the understanding indispensable to the process of healing. Healing begins with a recognition of history. These works are a touching reminder that we as individuals are impacted by the choices made by our ancestors. Navigating the meanings of selfhood and identity is a complicated, often painful venture, but the knowledge that this struggle brings forth makes it a valuable experience. Cosas repetidas, for instance, illustrates how literature can break down borders. The triumph of overcoming the traumas of these complex struggles is explored in He Held Me Down Because Mami Never Told Me. Finally, nostalgia, as a prism for viewing the past, shapes many of the narratives in this issue. Nostalgia manifests itself in Pai, an emotional reflection on loss and coping. All of these pieces show the diverse ways in which we as Latinxs think about our stories, while reclaiming, reshaping, and reconstructing the ideas that form our world views and experiences. We truly hope you enjoy the Fall 2017 edition of SOMOS Latinx Literary Magazine. Best wishes, The SOMOS family
Jacob Mukand Sara Solano Daniel Duarte Perdomo Eliany Domínguez Alan Mendoza Sosa Manuel Ávalos Edemir Castaño Andrea Vega Troncoso Annabeth Burgess
Editor In Chief Chief Administrator Senior Spanish Editor Spanish Editor Spanish Editor Senior Portuguese Editor Senior English Editor Public Relations Chair Art/Layout Editor
Table of Contents
4 AnaSofía Velázquez De hojas de plátano 5 Katerina Ramos Jordán Aún así
6 Selene Luna PAI 7 Renata Mauriz Man of Bronze 8 Natasha Rosario
9 Pablo J. Cabán-Bonet Paraíba – A Flor do Sertão 10 Jordan Jones Synthetic Biome 11 Edemir Castaño La playa puertorriqueña
He Held Me Down Because Mami Never Told Me
12 Lehidy Frías
Cosas repetidas y Los que esperan
14 Sara Van Horn
En la catedral
15 Victoria Chávez
The Final Offering
16 Rica Maestas
24 Andrea Vega Troncoso Curanto y folklore andino 25 Amaro Tuninetti palpitar a tus reflejos
Waterfire’s Smell Tonight 26 Pablo Rodríguez
33 María Arbeláez Poemas del Hatun Mayu 34 Yaxkin Melchy Ramos Death Toll
36 César Cañedo Reconcilio 37 César Cañedo Ausencia
38 Pazia Bermúdez-Silverman
39 Amaro Tuninetti
Cuando una madre Con la voz entrecortada Tragando lágrimas Ocultando la desesperación Cuando un padre Con la voz firme de esperanza Protegiendo la familia Ocultando el miedo Cuando una abuela Con la voz positiva Esperando Milagros Ocultando la realidad Cuando tu isla Con la voz a gritos Matando, robando, muriendo Sobreviviendo la destrucción
Cuando yo Sin voz Aguantando frustración Viendo desde afuera Sintiendo el dolor de la madre, el padre, la abuela, la isla sin poder Cuando un pueblo con la voz alegre pensando en el futuro amando, ayudando, cooperando mi madre triste mi padre nervioso mi abuela ansiosa mi isla en ruinas y yo enojada. Aún así, Mi pueblo feliz, Mi pueblo orgulloso, Mi pueblo, mi Puerto rico, me dueles, le dueles, te dueles. Aún así, me amas, los amas, te amas.
E S PA Ñ O L
De hojas de plátano Katerina Ramos Jordán
hojas surtidas de plátano en el patio hospedan lágrimas colectivas de los que sembraron cosecha comienza su trayecto, lentamente florecerá germinan en escombros, grietas, aguas negras se nutren día a día van los santos componen sus ventoleras, vírgenes siguen sus cantares oración mundana y furiosa hecho santificado alberga sumas y restas de días pasados y futuros vaporiza incertidumbre se difunde entre las nubes precipita gota a gota al platanal la mata crece arriesga semilla adaptada arropa premadura inciertas reflexivas tristonas « saben a melau, dicen algunos — y tan bien huracanados », dicen otros rumba el patio poco a poco E S PA Ñ O L
Triassic Dissonance Selene Luna
The desert freeway is shivering with deserted desperation. A road makes up names to veer into longevity. Broad veers into Main and Main into First Street. I traverse the endless cemented pathways and am fascinated at their seemingly unending finiteness. I lust the Fouquieria splendends and the cactii. The desert taught the Darkling beetle the language of the sticky night. Ravishing at the landscapeʼs nothingness that I am so afraid of in myself. I guess I crave the chaos I cannot create. I touch my own skin and acknowledge the fact that it is temporal, profane, mortal. I touch other skins just to remind myself, as if through Pavlovian methods, that I am a mere lightning beetle whose bioluminescence will eventually light out. Cognitive dissonance takes its toll. The church bells ding and the preacher preaches. The night arrives and the beetle absorbs the fog. He kisses me as if to remind me that I am more than just my body I tell him that his religion canʼt take my fears away. The road just married off and changed its last name. A solitary hare moves briskly to avoid the end of the day. Hares are born with eyes wide open. And my skin does end where the road ends. Despite the insistence of Him; my only precious possession is the capital Now. I notice the barren desert and guess it must have been an ocean 150 million years ago. I picture the Triassic waves swooshing and washing. Not even the ocean is eternal. I prick at my skin and see it changing from beige to yellow to red. I kiss the air and let the night envelop me. “Not even the ocean is eternal”— I whisper to myself as the road ends. My skin does end where the road ends—humankind dies with its eyes wide open.
Pai, ontem sonhei com você. Foi como abrir os olhos debaixo da água. Teu rosto, desfocado, tremia na distância dentro do vidro quebrado, um retrato paralisado. Mas os sonhos não são necessários. Está presente nos meus dedos, pequenos, grossos, sujos de graxa, de raiva. e em meus amargos olhos de amêndoa, também o vejo. Pai, as raízes que perdi são profundas. Ainda afogo no rio gelado das memórias curtas. A sua mão nunca estendida sob as águas perversas, e em meu socorro encontro apenas rosas com espinhos, nunca grandes girassóis do seu jardim. Não insista, não bebo do seu leite dourado. Seu orgulho palhaço só alimenta as cobras que mordem e envenenam as sementes que já plantei. Pai, me desculpe, aumentei o volume da música para que eu possa finalmente dançar. Não vale a pena soltar os cães, minha porta e feita de ferro, e a chave joguei no mar. PORTUGUÊS
Man of Bronze Natasha Rosario
V I S UA L A RT
La playa puertorriqueña Pablo J. Cabán-Bonet
I Ruge un león que permanece y queda en su eterno vaivén de ir y volver, Y estalla y calla y a la calma la engulle un nuevo rugido salado. II Al rugido y a la calma los roza un rumor entre crujidos de palma, Que habita, insondable, la selva de infinitos ruidos y rumores. III Lo rasgan aves, mas no hieren su ondulante cabello, serena palpita la garra que se hunde en el vello infranqueable, en paz partida. IV Ondea el cabello, cual trémulo espejismo de luna, muta y cambia de ciclo en ciclo: haz de lino sin figura, Se desnuda y viste: fluye. V Estrellas de arena orlan los arroyos de su melena, como piedrecitas en un plácido raudal, lo surcan húmedas brisas y venas de sol y sombra.
VI El sol dispara fulgores como saetas, Sobre su relieve de alas plegadas, Que se abren, cual arteria segada, Y sangran un inmortal dorado. VII Y se seca la sangre en penumbras, Galopan colinas de sombra y luz, Erigiéndose sobre las llanuras: El crepúsculo de un león herido. VIII Ruge una vez más y el estruendo se asemeja al relampagueo gutural de una concha de mar, Saliva espuma a borbotones. IX Pulveriza y arrastra a la brisa a una garganta sin fondo, Reina el relámpago que despide incontables trozos de zafir. X Preñada así la arena hollada, El león se retira al rumor profundo, Y se escapa el aire y vuelve a susurrar Y las fauces tremendas se sellan.
E S PA Ñ O L
Paraíba – A Flor do Sertão Jordan Jones
Ó Paraíba, minha terra amada, Ó lugar simples e maravilhoso! Só por conhecer seu povo grandioso Me considero uma alma tão mimada! Ó Paraíba, terra apaixonada Que abriga o povo de cuscuz e ovo E viu o terror do Lampião famoso Que lá passou com banda revoltada. Ó povo mais querido que já vi, Sóis o coração vivo do sertão— Paraibano não é abacaxi! Do mundo tu tens o maior São João— Onde dancei, cantei, comi, e ri Por voltar a ti, a flor do sertão.
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Synthetic Biome Edemir Castaño
I’m all types of lonesome I ate the cake Now I’m throwing up some Essential elements, I think.
It’s in my ears! Twitching fingers impregnate Refreshed feeds with bloated Campaign spores I ate
I’m losing grip on My virtual reality headset I turn my head to a blinking Yellow text box, “DOWNLOADING … “
Shhh. It won’t hurt much longer The hug machine promised Sally the dairy cow As it crushed her into Uncle Tom’s Organic Beef
“Have you seen my father?” The golden chick implores A crimson beak quivering, Above a shattered desktop screen Hulu hits the same spot That the needle pierced In the bright white room It hurts something fierce. Tap, zero, tap, one, tap The Internet taught me How to interpret Berkeley But what about the NPC’s? Ignacio lost weight by Downloading an app That transmutes adipose into advertisement pings
Once I hear the “beep” I run In pursuit of LED High-definition 3-D Immersive Renditions of Soothing Feedback loops I pay for IN severed digits When the WiFi went out The globe continued to rotate But my face disintegrated. Right in front of my eyes
He Held Me Down Because Mami Never Told Me Lehidy Frías
He held me down. I pushed…and kicked…and fought. I am a fighter, I would bite the skin off the flesh if it meant to be freed. But his control was evident, my freedom obsolete. Because every time I fought he would laugh and say, “I like it when you fight back” “You look so cute when you cry” my tears were orchestrated for his entertainment. He controlled my full being, He controlled my resistance. He held me down. What mami never told me, when she ensured I was quiet, Could not speak unless I was spoken to, utilized my opinions as excuses for her bloodshed, was that I owned my resistance. It wasn’t just his words that took my breath away, it was the emptiness he filled when he
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whispered that he loved me, He only got this angry because he loved me, I was his mami, his cosa linda, his corazon. To hear the words “te amo” meant more to me than the minor times he got too angry, he stormed off, he screamed at me, he hit me, The times he held me down. What mami never told me between passive aggressive statements about condoms, While she told me the consequences of getting pregnant, What mami never told me when she threatened my life if I came home embarazada, Was how much it hurt to love him, But more importantly how bad he could make me feel when I wanted to leave. He held me down. He owned my resistance, It was child’s play for him to have me cry and fight for my freedom to no avail, I’m a fighter, But he would belittled my attempts, Would tell me,
we fought for fun, He held me down.
I would almost find comfort in the ways he belittled me too.
What mami never told me was how her constant punishments of pelas With broom sticks, cable wires and the infamous chancleta Would have made me feel so at home to his love.
What mami never told me is when she hurt me and would cuddle up with us and tell us she didn’t mean it and we just made her angry sometimes, That when a man did the same I would almost understand.
He would kiss me, see my tears and call it routine. “If you didn’t want it you would have fought harder” he would say, “I can’t live without you mami” he would cry, “I’m going to kill myself if I don’t have you mi amor” he would confess, and hospital visits would make me stay, threats would make it hard to lose his number, “If you didn’t want it you would have fought harder” I internalized, He held me down.
What I did not understand was that love held me down physically, emotionally and mentally. What I did not understand was that calling that love was the problem.
What mami never told me was how when she called me a perra, a puta, a desgraciada,
Cosas repetidas Sara Van Horn
Learning Spanish here is learning an increasing catalog of physical reactions. It is not the learning of new substitutions, but the repetition and repetition and repetition of sounds until curses carry caution, until a term of degradation feels like a slap, until hambre is a long day and tortillas on the wood stove and calor is this suffocation of sun and sweat and what I really want is agua, until cuidado makes me stop, until rica, said softly, makes me shiver with remembered longing, until I’m reaching for the salt or grabbing the keys or laughing before I can translate, until los extraño is the only way I know how to think of them, until mírame I’m already looking. Learning Spanish here is learning to give words weight. Asesinado, secuestrado, desaparecido. I have not grown up with these words; I know only the hesitation, the careful syllables, the visible unclenching of memory—you show me photographs, you lived in la selva for fourteen years, you show me your compañeros, your weapons, your worn flags—this is guerrillero, your want of questions, you are guerrillero. It also happened in Nicaragua, you tell me, and El Salvador también and Honduras también y Argentina también y Chile también y Guatemala todavía… ¿me entiendes?
Los que esperan Sara Van Horn
Cuando el sol cambia el color de las hojas de café, Y los insectos sueñan con las nubes mojadas de la luna, Y nos esperan, Pienso en la manera en que dejaste tu reloj en la cocina, Olvidándolo sin una sombra de dolor, Y ahora, mientras la tierra se traga la lluvia, Me despierto solo entre sueños llenos de lunares y miradas, Escuchando A la fútil esperanza del reloj en la cocina, Preguntando. Pero me quedaré en la cocina de humo y arroz, Donde no cambian tus ojos de color café Y no nos importan los que nos esperan.
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En la catedral Victoria Chávez
Señor, ayúdame a no sentir este rencor, coraje y odio que siento al pensar en todas las muertes, las masacres, los abusos, los genocidios y las violaciones que hicieron que este templo fuera posible; al ver estas lámparas de plata y saber que asesinaron a mis antepasados para poder construirlas con lo que nos robaron; al saber que quemaron nuestros textos sagrados para esparcir Tu Palabra; que quemaron nuestras creencias y abusaron de nuestros cuerpos hasta que nuestros labios sólo pudieron decir « Sí, señor » y repetir Tu Palabra. Padre, perdónalos porque sabían lo que hacían. En la Catedral de Granada Victoria Concepción Chávez E S PA Ñ O L
The Final Offering Rica Maestas
El Santuario de Chimayó had been a holy site in Northern New Mexico where pilgrims left offerings - religious, personal, secular - for hundreds of years. The result was a bizarre collection of miscellaneous objects, each with deeply meaningful, unspoken stories. In 2016, this amazingly open and inclusive space was converted into a historic site by the Catholic Church, forcing this active facet of cultural heritage into an inert past in favor of a didactic version of its historic significance. THE FINAL OFFERING was a performance of personal and cultural closure and the last installment in the Chimayó trilogy. I mourned Chimayó in one last pilgrimage, removing the psychic and physical imprint of it from my body. Though this is a cultural loss I will alway feel, I keep the old El Santuario de Chimayó alive by leaving my hair behind, enacting newness, regeneration, and growth like it taught me. Documentation by Kell Yang-Sammataro.
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palpitar a tus reflejos Andrea Vega Troncoso
i, a hemorrhaging sea you, coursing through my veins and the honeymantle of my skin, irises of midnight dew meld roses into dust breathe in your soft lavender edged laugh chamomile lovetouch seeping into i, fluorescent, bones aflame you, rootsilver of my heart our limbs, branches intertwined concentric rings we grow slow ambersap crystallizes tearblossoms drop, you shed your leaves for me bodies carved out of our native lands shattered histories into our being he visto sus montañas en tu piel su amanecer en tu voz su neblina en tus párpados su lluvia en tus lágrimas he amado tu patria a través de tu ser us, shifting lands of loss: earth membranes folding into each other, scar tissue healing.
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Curanto y folklore andino Amaro Tuninetti
V I S UA L A RT
Waterfire’s Smell Tonight Pablo Rodriguez
The smoke was different tonight. It was the end of summer and Waterfire was more crowded than usual because college kids were returning to town to begin another academic year. José Cadalzo was very excited because he had finally landed a volunteer job on the boat that went around the floating fire pits, feeding the pyres with crisp, specially chosen wood, giving him the best seat in the house for the now world famous Providence tradition. Who would have ever thought that setting up a bunch of floating fireplaces accompanied by piped-in music on a not so clean river would become the main attraction in the renaissance of a former industrial city? Maybe it was the humidity or maybe the wood was wet, but José knew that the color and the acrid smell of the smoke was very different tonight. It reminded him of his youth in the Dominican Republic when cows or horses would die by the roadside and their owners, or even just strangers, would douse them with gasoline and set them on fire. That was it! José realized. The fires tonight smelled like burnt flesh. And why not? Human and animal flesh are not that different. Just three days earlier, José and his best friend Luis were playing dominoes at the Club Juan Pablo Duarte, discussing the typical Dominican topics of politics, making money, and the meaning of life, when the issue of US and Dominican citizenship came to the fore. In all Dominican gatherings there is always an increase in the pitch of the discussion when it comes to politics, and that night it was no exception. In spite of being best friends and originating from the same town in the DR, José and Luis were political enemies, therefore their arguments were especially loud. Not that they were the I’m going to kill you kind of enemies, but their difference of opinion regarding the two political parties, the PLD and PRD, were legendary, and more than once, their game had ended up with overturned tables and flying dominoes. José came in illegally to the US from the DR by his mother when he was 12 years old, and Luis was a second generation, born here from a Dominican couple whose skin color was a reminder of the omnipresence of Haitians in the island of Hispaniola, the shared landmass comprising the two countries. Their discussion three days ago was around the change in the Dominican constitution revoking citizenship for descendants of Haitians living in La República, retroactively to 1929. Almost two hundred thousand people found themselves stateless overnight as a result of the ruling by the constitutional court in September of 2013. Even though Luis was born in the United States he had always maintained pride in his native country, and no one flew more Dominican flags from his car during the annual Dominican festival at Roger Williams Park.
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“How could they do this, coño? Don’t they know that the DR is a Black Country? Todos somos negros. Everyone has a little bit of this.” Luis screamed as he rubbed the top of his forearm with so much friction that it seemed like he wanted to rub off his skin. “Speak for yourself, cocolo1” replied José. “My family are descendants from Galicia in Spain, and we can trace our arrival at the island to the second trip by Almirante Cristobal Colon (aka Columbus) and to the founding of Santo Domingo the first city in the New World.” “Mierda,” said Luis, raising his middle finger in disgust as he prepared to overturn the table, which was customary during discussions of the constitution. “You have pelo malo just like me and your lips are most definitely African, you just wont admit to your own race.” This was true. José Cadalzo was white. He had blue eyes and the bridge of his nose was like the bow of the Titanic. But his lips were not typical for gallegos and his hair had never met a comb that would slide through it, or a breeze strong enough to disrupt his hairdo. He never knew his father, but his mother, Doña Carmen María Cadalzo Frías was the spitting image of a la Virgen de Altagracia, the venerated madonna of the Dominican Republic whose porcelain skin and Roman nose were the ultimate expression of beauty and love. But José’s incongruent features did not dissuade him from his guttural certainty that he was white, and as a white person he felt threatened by the increasing numbers of Haitians crossing the border, having babies and changing the complexion of the Dominican people. His denial of the mirror was only matched by his ingrained racism and his almost benign justification for the oppression of the Haitian people. “They are just different, they are not like us and never will be. They are just good for hard labor and they like it that way. You don’t know this because you were born here, you’re American,” he said in an almost professorial way. Those were fighting words for Luis, the number one Dominican in Providence. By then the dominoes were flying, the game was over and cries of racism and ignorance filled the room. Pedro José, the president of the club, came down from his office to see what the ruckus was all about, and found himself in the middle of a fist fight, with both pugilists landing punches on him, and more than one chair passing by his head as he moved his body strategically from side to side as if he was dancing a merengue played by drunk musicians. “Paren eso, CARAJO!” said Pedro José as he slammed his Louisville slugger on the only table still standing. “You better take this outside, otherwise I’m going to crack both your heads open.” 1 Cocolo is a slang term common in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean used sometimes to refer to non-Hispanic African descendants, or darker skin people
He was serious. He was a small man with a small man syndrome, but his baseball bat had broken up plenty of fights and more than a few skulls, in spite of the batter’s stature. Both fighters knew better, and just like the response to the bell in a prize fight, they both stopped their hostilities. It was as if someone had turned off a switch, but deep inside this particular argument changed something in their relationship. Luis was angry at the world because the motherland he so cherished had all of a sudden rejected him. José was angry because in the depth of his soul there was always a doubt as to his father’s race, especially because any mention of him during family gatherings was met with the same universal sign of silence reserved for churches and libraries: index finger to the lips. The first round of stoking the fires was over just about the time Mozart’s Requiem was playing on the speakers on the banks of the urban river. It was time to reload the boat with fresh red cedar. The skipper guided the vessel to the pile of wood near the end of the river, just before the hurricane barrier. The full moon illuminated the pile, which appeared redder than usual, and the sweet smell of the cedar combined with a slight tinge of decomposing matter. “Dead mice,” said the skipper as the logs were loaded on to the cargo area. The volunteers waved at the air as if shooing flies in order to tolerate the increasing stench. When the cute blonde from Brown University picked up a spiky piece of cedar, something dangled from one of the shards of wood. “Check this out!” she called with the enthusiasm of someone winning the lottery. “I think this is some jewelry.” Sure enough, hanging from the wood was a gold chain with a pendant for La Virgen de Altagracia on one side and a Dominican flag on the other. The image of the virgin glistening under the light of the moon appeared like a magic talisman with its own internal light. “That is mine!” yelled José with such firmness and conviction that the young woman was taken aback and immediately handed over the chain without questioning. “I was loading this pile on the truck this morning when I noticed I no longer had my chain,” he explained as he took it from her. This much was true. He had worked with the wood crew for the last two days cutting and loading the wood for tonight’s event. What his boat mates did not know was that the chain did not belong to him. The chain belonged to his friend Luis, whose family reported him missing two days ago when he did not return home after his fracas with José. At that moment the song of Juan Luis Guerra, “El Niagara en bicicleta,” cut through the tense moment like an engine backfiring on a sleepy Sunday morning. Most people set up their ring tones to be the ubiquitous marimba sound but not José. His began with a brass section blast
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followed by the driving merengue beat and the words “tranquilo, Bobby, tranquilo,” which according to the song is the reassuring phrase given by a nurse to a sick man coming to an emergency room in a hospital where there are no doctors, no medicine and no hope. Calm down Bobby, calm down. The interruption broke the attention of the boat mates and the work of loading the boat resumed. At the other end of the line, Jose heard the familiar sound of his mother and with a deep exasperated sigh he said, “¿Qué pasa, Mami?” His mother was clearly worried. She had received a call from the police asking about the whereabouts of her son. Apparently witnesses of the fight at the Juan Pablo Duarte Club spoke to the agents investigating Luis’ disappearance and therefore Jose had become a person of interest. She was also very much aware of the stress her son was under. After the fight he had become obsessed with the news from the DR and was speaking openly and loudly about his support for the court’s decision approving the anti-Haitian amendment to the constitution. All she could do was shake her head affirmatively, and with each nod her heart squeezed tighter and tighter. “How can I tell him?” she thought. Inside José’s head Luis’s words, “todos somos negros,” kept resonating in his brain like a broken record playing over and over the same fateful phrase as his mother inquired whether he had anything to do with Luis’ disappearance. “Por favor, Mami, don’t believe the worst. Luis is probably partying in New York or Boston and he has not bothered to call.” He spoke calmly and almost condescending, knowing that he was lying. Any other time he would have been mortified at the prospect of lying to his mother. But this time he felt completely justified. She had lied to him all his life about his father. Therefore he felt almost a sense of divine justice about lying to her now. He knew. He was there when Luis uttered his last words, drowned by the sound of the wood chipper but clearly an unmistakable curse spoken through the grinding teeth of pain in the final seconds. “Jodío negro.” You damned negro. “When are you coming home?” his mother asked with a longing that turned her into a child begging for attention. “As soon as the fires are out,” he said. Then he bid her farewell by repeating ok,ok,ok? When he pressed the red bar of the IPhone, he noticed the cuticle of his index finger stained red by someone else’s blood. The skipper whistled with two fingers in his mouth to signal that it was time to return to the fires. The boat was loaded and the pyres were hungry for fresh wood. Barnaby Evans, the artist and director of Waterfire, was standing on the other bank of the river forming a giant V with his arms signalling his impatience with the volunteers tonight. When the skipper noticed ENGLISH
the boss, he waved and nodded, signaling that he understood and was on the case. It was José’s turn to be in the front of the boat leading the effort of re-kindling the fires. As the boat slowly approached the floating cauldron, the line of volunteers on the side of the boat loaded the wood on to the fire one by one with a solemnity very much in tune with the piped in music. “Wake up José!” screamed the skipper. They approached the next floating bonfire and everyone became delayed in throwing in their logs as a result of José’s daydreaming. Or should it be night dreaming since it was already 10pm? His mind was drifting to forty-eight hours earlier when Luis came to visit the lumber yard where José was working with a giant pile of logs getting the cedar ready for tonight’s fires. Long, slender red logs had to be cut into cylindrical pieces and then split into multiple pieces ready for lighting. As he was cutting his last log he heard the familiar greeting by his former friend calling his attention. Luis had a somber face and his shoulders were rolled forward with the weight of a truth he had been carrying for a while but was too afraid to reveal. The fight the day before was the final straw for Luis, and he could no longer hold his peace. He had come upon the truth of José’s father during his last trip to the DR as he was trying to inquire about his own citizenship as a Black Dominican. Luis was in the final steps of obtaining his dual citizenship, something he cherished enormously, and which made him dream of a day when he could return to the land of his ancestors full of money and teeming with respect. Born a US citizen from Dominican parents would have been a slam dunk the year before, but now after the constitutional court removed his parents’ citizenship for being Haitian descendants, he had to re-apply under a different class: a Haitian. As he was researching his grandparents’ entry into the country, he met his Uncle Frantz, still living in the house where his ancestors first set foot in the country in order to work in the sugar cane fields. Luis was ecstatic at the stories his uncle shared, until the subject of the conversation turned to other people they both knew. “You are in Providence, right?” Asked Uncle Frantz as he gazed towards the sky searching for memories in the clouds above. They knew quite a lot of people since many of the folks from their hometown, the border town of Dajabón, had found work in Rhode Island and over the years were able to bring their families to the states. When the topic turned to family and children, Uncle Frantz became quiet and asked Luis to not ask any more questions about what was clearly a touchy subject. Index finger to the lips. After much prodding, Uncle Frantz revealed the identity of a lover he had many years ago when interracial sex was very much taboo. He knew she became pregnant right before she left for the capital Santo Domingo in order to escape the poverty and misery of the border town. He
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also knew she could never reveal the nature of their relationship and had partly decided to leave in order to hide the truth of a child who could have been born Black, to a family whose proud Galician traditions permeated every celebration, and whose ancestry could be traced to the Spaniards arrival in 1492. As a devout Catholic, there were no other options. Frantz was aware she had lived in Santo Domingo for twelve years and then left for Puerto Rico in a rickety yola2 with her young son. Last he heard she was in Providence. “What family was she from?” asked Luis tremulously as the magnitude of the truth he was about to uncover chilled his skin in the heat of the tropics. “She was a Cadalzo,” Uncle Frantz whispered. No other words were spoken. The pain of not knowing his son overwhelmed the old man and the gravity of the truth overwhelmed the young one. “What the hell are you doing here?” José demanded of Luis. He stuck his chest out like a gorilla defending his turf and his tone denoted hostility and contempt, all while he held a splitting ax. “I’m sorry that things between us have become so strained but I just came from meeting with your mother and she confirmed something for me that she would never tell you. As a matter of fact, she made me promise not to share it with you. And here I am violating my oath to her.” Luis looked down on the ground as if he was apologizing for what he was about to say. “What are you talking about, man?” José asked him. “What can my mother tell you that she wouldn’t tell me?” As he barked the questions, José came closer to Luis, invading that unseen border of personal space, and almost threatening to push him with his chest. As Luis began to narrate the tragic story of Frantz and Carmen María, their illegitimate child and their complete lack of contact after all of these years, José’s shoulder grew higher and the muscles around his jaw delineated a silent growl reserved for the most uncomfortable moments. “Who the hell are you talking about and why are you telling me this?” José growled through clenched teeth. “My Uncle Frantz is your father. And just like me you are a Black Haitian. And just like me you no longer can call yourself a Dominican citizen,” said Luis with an air of certainty and a 2 typical name for the small boats used to smuggle immigrants from DR into the US mainland via Puerto Rico
sense of relief at sharing the weight of the truth with his new found cousin. “Mentiras, you lie to make yourself feel better about losing your citizenship. My mother would never sleep with a negro like you. How dare you insult my mother this way!” José screamed as he grabbed a big branch and began chasing Luis through the lumberyard like a crazy man, howling and spitting insults half in English and half in Spanish. Luis tried to stay ahead of the swinging lunatic as he climbed on a platform above the Morbark 950 tub grinder which was used to turn big branches into toothpicks, hoping that the moving machinery would somehow slow down the crazed attack. But José kept in pursuit, screaming obscenities and swinging the branch like he was trying to hit imaginary bees trying to sting him. Was he trying to hurt Luis? Or was he just swinging at the truth, hoping that with one blow everything would get back to normal and he could become white once again? Luis kept walking backwards on the platform trying to keep an eye and his distance from what was now a foaming at the mouth, incensed attacker. He grabbed the railing, hoping to jump off and over the tub of the grinder, but his right hand slipped from sweat and he fell to his death, not before cursing Jose with his last breath. In the commotion, the grinder’s exhaust chute had swung around from the pile of wood chips to the pile of split wood, and a wide spray of red covered the tree guts, just as the sky broke open in one of those New England thunderstorms that seem to come out of nowhere when you least expect it. José was taken aback, not by the scene of his cousin being pulverized in a few seconds, but at his lack of feeling for what just took place. With a mixture of righteousness and relief, Jose thought, “All is good in the world again.” The final bonfire was re-kindled. Just as slowly as the fires were extinguishing, the crowd was leaving downtown. The crew on the boat high-fived another successful Waterfire, and after the boat was tied to the dock everyone headed for the Brew House Bar for a well-deserved beer. As José lifted his beer to toast to his first night on the job, the bartender pointed to his index finger. Clearly visible in the light of the bar, Jose’s finger was obviously red with blood. Maybe from the night before, or maybe from the logs he’d solemnly placed on the fires tonight. With a quizzical look, and almost child-like, Jose lifted his index finger to his lips, placed it to his mouth and said, “Don’t worry, this is my own blood.”.
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Death Toll María Arbeláez
V I S UA L A RT
Poemas del Hatun Mayu1 Yaxkin Melchy Ramos
30 de agosto, 2015.
Sueño Si te cansas, duerme cuando despiertes, concéntrate en la profundidad de lo andado y descansa, observando las estrellas. 22 de junio, 2016. Sobrevolando Perú La nube que canta ¿Por qué me he ido? Por qué he venido aquí, solitario A, lejana estrella H, lejana estrella Y, lejana estrella Estrellas que bailan, sí desde aquí se ve el baile de sus astros la constelación de luces en la corriente del tiempo ¿Conjunción? ¿Alineación? Algo más, la figura que baila es un dragón, un río, un árbol, las tres cosas en una cascada. Nuestros rostros envejecen
y se cubren de nubes Musgo que cubres nuestro corazón, barcazas dejadas en la arena, pasan los niños los cangrejos, las islas y los coros lejanos de un fuego. Nuestras manos se tocan murmurando en el pasto y en la yerba. Esto es el universo canoas hechas de canto en el camino de la luz que no muere. 4 de julio, San José, Pucallpa - agosto, México D.F. 2016 ¿Qué hace un poeta? Explicar el cielo con su canto con el canto que nace de su sangre movimiento eterno su sangre que es la sangre de los ríos sus ideas en la mente sin una falsa creación siendo él la creación misma
1 Palabra quechua que literalmente significa “Gran Río” y refiere a la Vía Láctea. Estos poemas fueron escritos en Perú y México en un diario.
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tocando la luz de las hojas Las estrellas caben en la palma de su mano como él en la palma de la mano de su hermano su amigo, su compañero, su amante Su palabra es para despejar el humo moderno que se aferra a permanecer en los corazones El canto del poeta sopla levanta el polvo agita los mares con su calma moviente hace que las piedras rían que los pájaros alegren sus cantos, canta juntando ríos como niños que comen de los mismos frutos Teje con su poesía algo luminoso y bello que en un segundo se difumina cubre con un rocío solar las mañanas del mundo del nuevo mundo Se escabulle de la resplandeciente belleza de los padres literarios deja colgada del perchero la capa de la fascinación va desnudo, sin ropa con el canto de sus cabellos
que han caído por el camino en la almohada en el piso del baño en la tierra del vecindario en el manantial a donde asomó la cabeza lo mismo que la universidad en donde se la pasa discutiendo con gente demasiado obtusa la misma universidad en donde estudia por la tarde la claridad del espejo de las palabras (claridad que encuentra tan profunda como esquiva) Pierde los cabellos mientras lee mientras canta mientras se detiene a escuchar mientras enseña sobre la vida a sus hermanos mientras va perdiendo estos sentidos y los ojos y las orejas y los otros ojos que aún guardan un espacio de soberbia y las uñas y la piel y los huesos Dejó atrás la envidia por la creación pero su alma continúa, ya limpia, por la eternidad. Entonces vuelve a nacer otro poeta: —…En donde vivió el antiguo maestro ahora hay un árbol. E S PA Ñ O L
Ausencia1 César Cañedo
Hoy también quiero ser esos poemas que no escribo jamás, que la falta de tinta o de memoria se llevan para siempre. Quiero habitar la sombra de esos sueños que no recuerdo, quedarme fijo en tu “vivimos tanto” que no podrá tocarme sin despecho. Calcar y deshacer aquella lista de cosas por hacer y nunca hicimos, la blanca arena que tocaría tus pies y mi regazo, el viaje a mi terruño de la primera edad y la caricia, inventar un platillo a nuestro nombre,
desafiar el telón, resarcir versos, desde aquel mutuo paso. Aprender lo que fuimos para desaprender a enamorarte. Inventariar el juntos que no te pude dar para vaciarlo. Quiero llenarme en todo lo que oculto para así vomitar desesperanza. Quiero sembrar infértil la semilla de todo ese lenguaje que creamos, del saber tantos nombres de tu historia y no poder tan solo conjurarlos. Quiero asirme de todo lo que olvido para llegar a lo que no te dije, que no mencionaré, que ya no importa.
1 Los dos poemas aquí presentados pertenecen a la obra: Loca [Demencia asociada al vih]. Premio Nacional de Poesía Joven Francisco Cervantes Vidal 2017.
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Reconcilio César Cañedo
Si pudiera ensayar otra vida sería la misma. Me contagiaría exactamente igual de vih. Haría la Confirmación antes que el Bautismo y sería tan apóstata como en los últimos días. Viviría política, comprometida desafiante y amorosamente la poesía. Derribaría los muros del lenguaje que son como los de agua. Recitaría las jarchas en las noches sin luna. A Darío en las noches de insomnio. A Federico en la pasión esquiva. Si pudiera desenterrar un nombre no sería el mío. Iría a la misma primaria de pueblo. Odiaría a los mismos enemigos. Sería tan frágil como en un principio y callaría tímido para un mejor momento. Volvería a matar a aquel gatito con los morros del barrio para pertenecer a su violencia, porque el remordimiento es sal para la vida que ya jura el exilio. Yo no busco volver a las carencias, no gano nada al perdonar mis hechos. Siempre soy lo que fui.
Lo que detesto y lo que me engrandece. Si pudiera trazar rectos mis planes no lo haría. Elegiría leer siempre a deshoras, presionarme, ser un perfecto bruto en los amores, confundir depresión con no he comido. Haría los mismos dramas, empujaría el cambio con la misma fuerza hacia el mismo lugar que no conozco. No sacrificaría mi pasión ni por la gloria ni el terreno estable. Perdería el tiempo en modelar mi cuerpo que al final, cada tanto, se fractura. Volvería a escribir por abandono, por mucha soledad y también, claro está, por la alegría, por haber elegido este que soy, que es ido, lento, impaciente, lúbrico y norteño. Volvería a dejar que mi mano cayera de otro modo, que los hombres probaran, que mi fruto enverdezca. Abrazaría de nuevo este sosiego en el momento justo en que él arriba. Cometería la sensata estupidez de creerme feliz e invulnerable. Probaría igual, demasiado tarde, destinos que tal vez me harían dichoso. No he gustado el higo hasta ahora. No he visto una nevada en Harlem. He podido escribir y es lo que digo.
E S PA Ñ O L
yo abro el día con los pensamientos de mi familia, the reminders of what I do not know of them. to my grandmothers, will we be the inheritors of smoke? to my abuelas, ¿qué pensaban de mí? ¿me conocían? her heavenly identity, it changes as the wind blows her through one culture and into another. limpias of genealogies, lineage, ancestry. isn’t that supposed to mean where you come from. isn’t that supposed to mean who you come from. what if you forget them. if they forget you. well, if I am reaching for ancestry it’s just for the throbbing envelope, the one that contains all the secrets. this debased mongrelization, this tainting of the races, this illegal mixture of blood, it makes up my flesh. my nails. my besos de plátano. my shape. my hair. sí, el pelo sabe todo. this mulatismo. this mestizaje, the result of conquest, colonization, and slavery, manifests itself in me. but do I have to look like them to be like them. do they still exist within me. do I have to be pura, virginal. o, la Virgencita, perfecta, hermosa, pura. she stands upon the moon. but does it have to do with place and skin color, como la santería, o flower and song. cuidado, those miraculous flowers, they trick you. and I pass as them even if they haunt the floorboards, even if they aren’t here anymore, even if you can’t see them in my face, my flesh, my nails, my besos de plátano, my shape, my pelo. did you forget who killed my family. did you forget who created me. in your house the smoke swirling with prayer, las muñecas que conseguí cuando tú moriste. I imagine unas fotos on the wall, muchos colores y luz. sí, tú, abuela, la luz. beads, la cruz, y los santos. santa muñeca, las santas fotografías, san color, la Santa Luz, tú, san abalorio, cristo. sí todos ahí. yes, en mis sueños, they’re all there. and I ask them, pray for us, save us, deliver us, return us, and I ask you, abuela. there’s something in the room, notice the burning? she leaves the odor of wax, she leaves the fire burning, she is gone from where she never came to. la candela. she cleans you out while you sleep. ok, light this candela, las siete potencias. take their power, it’s full of cactus, full of water. my roots, raíces, gone with the nail I’ve just bitten to the sensitive part. uña pura, dedo puro, chica pura y vacía otra vez. and in this crystallized version of ritual sacrifice, if you must have the blood, you must take my family. and if you must have the blood, you must take my flesh, my nails, my besos de plátano, my shape, my hair. and if you must have my blood, you must also take my plantain chips and my unfortunate life. this santería, these santeras. people come to them seeking a solution to their dilemmas, seeking an explanation for their predicament, but mine is not knowing. ¿puede ayudarme a conocer? sí, me imaginaba que no. Words adopted from the following: Renaming Ecstasy: Latino Writings on the Sacred, ed. by Orlando Ricardo Menes Oil and Candle by Gabriel Ojeda-Sague
38 E N G L I S H y E S P A Ñ O L
Córdoba Amaro Tuninetti
V I S UA L A RT