“Language Current”: Latino and Chicano poets from the 1980s and 1990sPosted: April 12, 2016
(born 1948, Managua, Nicaragua / Los Angeles, California, USA)
I’m not acquainted with it, yet.
But, so far,
all over the world,
women have survived it.
Perhaps it was that our grandmothers were stoic
or that, back then, no one entitled them to complain,
still they reached old age
with wilted bodies
but strong souls.
dissertations are written on the subject.
At age thirty the sorrow begins,
the premonition of catastrophe.
A body is much more than the sum of its hormones.
Menopausal or not
a woman remains a woman,
beyond the production of secretions or eggs.
To miss a period does not imply the loss of syntax
it shouldn’t lead to hiding
as a snail in a shell,
nor provoke endless brooding.
If depression sets in
it won’t be a new occurrence,
each menstrual cycle has come to us with tears
and its load of irrational anger.
There is no reason, then,
to feel devalued:
Get rid of tampons
and sanitary napkins!
Use them to light a bonfire in your garden!
Dance the ritual of aging
And survive it,
as we all shall.
. . .
(born 1964, Dover, New Jersey, USA)
He doesn’t know it yet, but when my father
and I return there, it will be forever.
His antihypertensives thrown away,
his briefcase in the attic left to waste,
the football game turned off – he’s snoring now,
he doesn’t even dream it, but I know
I’ll carry him the way he carried me
when I was small: In 2023,
my father’s shrunken, eight-five years old,
weighs ninety pounds, a little dazed but thrilled
that Castro’s long been dead, his son impeached!
He doesn’t know it, dozing on the couch
across the family room from me, but this
is what I’ve dreamed of giving him, just this.
And as I carry him upon my shoulders,
triumphant strides across a beach so golden
I want to cry, that’s when he sees for sure,
he sees he’s needed me for all these years.
He doesn’t understand it yet, but when
I give him Cuba, he will love me then.
. . .
(Chicana, born 1954, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Tango for the Broom
I would like to be a poet if
I had my life to do over again.
I would like to dance with the broom,
or sweep the kitchen as I am
sweeping it today and imagine
my broom is a handsome
black-haired tango man whose
black hair scented with Tres Flores
oil is as shiny as his
black patent leather shoes.
Or, I would like to be a poet laundress
washing sheets and towels,
pulling them hot and twisted
from the dryer, wrapping
myself in the warmth of
clean towels, clean sheets,
folding my work into soft towers,
satisfied. So much done in a day!
Or, I would like to be a poet eating soup
today because my throat hurts. Putting
big spoonfuls of hot soup
into my big fat mouth.
. . .
It occurs to me I am the creative / destructive goddess Coatlicue
I deserve stones.
Better leave me the hell alone.
I am besieged.
I cannot feed you.
You may not souvenir my bones,
knock on my door, camp, come in,
telephone, take my Polaroid. I’m paranoid,
I tell you. Lárguense. Scram.
I am anomaly. Rare she who
can’t stand kids and can’t stand you.
No excellent Cordelia cordiality have I.
No coffee served in tidy cups.
No groceries in the house.
I sleep to excess,
drink. Am at my best
my fingernails dirty,
my hair a mess.
sorry, Madame isn’t
feeling well today.
Pull an Emily D.
Roil like Jean Rhys.
Throw a Maria Callas.
Shut myself like a shoe.
Stand back. Christ
almighty. I’m warning.
Do not. Keep
. . .
Judith Ortíz Cofer
(born 1952, Hormigueros, Puerto Rico / Georgia, USA)
Just days before the crash
that killed him, my father
lost the tip of his index finger
while working on the same vehicle
that would take him away.
I recall my mother’s scream
that brought me out of Mann’s
The Magic Mountain,
and to the concrete drive
now sprinkled in crimson.
His stunned look
is what has stayed with me.
Shock that part of him could take leave
without permission or warning.
He was a man who hated surprises,
who lined his clothes and shoes
like a platoon he inspected daily,
and taught us to suspect the future.
His was the stranger in a strange land’s fear
of not knowing, and not having.
After the doctor snipped the raggéd end
of joint and skin like a cigar
and stitched it closed, my father
stared transfixed at the decapitated
finger, as if it had a message for him.
As if he suspected this small betrayal
of his body was just the tip
of chaos rising.
. . .
(Chicano, born 1953, San Antonio, Texas / Chicago, Illinois, USA)
A cougar’s howl blasts
out of brass cornets,
matched by blaring bugles,
plus two marching kettledrums
dum dum dumbing us deaf
as six muscle men carry cudgels,
four women wearing less than
what’s wrapped in ribbon around
their lances bounce freely alongside
13 elephants that line up, turn, mount
and massage each other,
except grey guys one and thirteen
who represent wrinkled
alpha and omega
possessing the patois of saints
amid the frantic pulse of these
Sandra María Esteves
(Nuyorican / Dominicana, born 1948, The Bronx, New York City, USA)
In the Beginning
In the beginning was the sound
Like the universe exploding
It came, took form, gave life
And was called Conga
And Conga said:
Let there be night and day
And was born el Quinto y el Bajo
And Quinto said: Give me female
There came Campana
And Bajo said: Give me son
There came Bongos
They merged produced force
Maracas y Claves
Chequere y Timbales
¡Qué viva la música!
So it was written
On the skin of the drum
¡Qué viva la gente!
So it was written
In the hearts of the people
¡Qué viva Raza!
So it is written.
. . .
In our wagon oysters are treasured
Their hard shells clacking against each other
Words that crash into our ears
We cushion them
Cup them gently in our hands
We kiss and suck the delicate juice
And sculpture flowers from the stone skin
We wash them in the river by moonlight
With offerings of songs
And after the meal we wear them in our hair
And in our eyes.
. . .
Rosario Ferré (1938-2016, Puerto Rico)
English is like a nuclear reactor.
I’m in it right now.
As I shoot down its fast track
small bits of skin, fragments, cells
stick to my sides.
Once in a while whole sentences gush forth
and slam themselves against the page
condensing their rapid sprays of pellets
into separate words.
Sometimes I travel in it at 186,000 miles an hour,
the speed of light,
when I lie sleepless on the bed at night.
No excess baggage is allowed.
No playful, baroque tendrils
curling this way and that.
No dreamtime walkabout
all the way down to Australia.
In English you have to know where you’re going:
either towards the splitting of the self
or the blasting of the molecules around you.
Spanish is a very different tongue.
It’s deeper and darker, with so many twists
and turns it makes me feel like I’m navigating
the uterus. Shards of gleaming stone,
emerald, amethyst, opal
wink at me as I swim down its moist shaft.
It goes deeper than the English Channel,
all the way down to the birth canal and beyond.
. . .
(born 1944, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)
Zen – Where I’m From
A good door needs no lock, yet no one can open it.
You simply have to admire how, immediately after
the twelve-foot-high chainlink fence
crowned with coils of wicked barbed wire was
erected, the fence the City Council voted on
unanimously to guard against anyone ever again,
again breaking into one of the town’s
storage sheds, how immediately after, the
thieves drove up with their welding torches and
. . .
What it was like
If you want to know what
it was like, I’ll tell you
what my tío told me:
There was a truckdriver,
Antonio, who could handle a
rig as easily in reverse as
anybody else straight ahead:
Too bad he’s a Mexican was
what my tío said the
Anglos had to say
And thus the moral:
Where do you begin if
you begin with
if you’re too good it’s too bad?
. . .
He came bouncing down the street
heavy body, long hair, jacket and tie
there was an oddness about him
then, as he approached
I heard the sound of maracas
coming from his pockets
– was it candy?
I pictured hundreds of multi-coloured sweets
crashing against each other
he, oblivious to the crackling rhythm.
Along Capitol Avenue
our paths crossed
lunch break nearly over.
How can I explain
being late for work
because I was following a man
who sounded like maracas?
Raúl R. Salinas
(1934-2008, San Antonio/Austin, Texas, USA)
Poema del Nuevo León
surrounded by carnitas
me pongo a platonear.
en un booth by the bar
Gloria (la waitress
especial) sits smiling
minutes before her
shift / swiftly munching
on a bunch of
(what i hope are
– Austin, 1986