Σάββατο, 21 Ιανουαρίου 2012

Judith Ortiz Cofer

El olvido (según las madres)

It is a dangerous thing
to forget the climate of
your birthplace; to choke out
the voices of the dead relatives when
in dreams they call you by
your secret name; dangerous
to spurn the clothes you were
born to wear for the sake of fashion;
to use weapons and sharp instruments you
are not familiar with; dangerous
to disdain the plaster saints before
which your mother kneels 
praying for you with
embarassing fervor that you survive
in  the place you have chosen to live; a costly,
bare ,cold room with no pictures
on the walls: a forgetting place where
she fears you might die of exposure.
Jesús , María y José.
El olvido is a dangerous thing.


Es una cosa peligrosa
olvidar el clima del
lugar en que naciste; alejar
las voces de los parientes muertos cuando
en sueños ellos te llaman por
tu nombre secreto; peligroso
rechazar las ropas que has
nacido para llevar para estar a la moda;
usar armas e instrumentos afilados con los que tú
no estás familiarizada; peligroso
desdeñar los santos de escayola ante
los cuales tu madre se arrodilla rezando por tí con
embarazoso fervor para que sobrevivas en
el lugar que has escogido para vivir; una habitación
cara, elegante y con pocos muebles, sin cuadros
en las paredes: un lugar de olvido donde
ella teme que mueras de frío.
Jesús, María y José.
El olvido es una cosa peligrosa.

Judith Ortiz Cofer, "El olvido (según las madres)", en Tashlik, P.,Hispanic, female and young: an anthology, Piñata Books, Houston, Texas, p. 19 Judith Ortiz Cofer, “El Olvido” from Terms of Survival.  Arte Público Press.

 The Other

A sloe-eyed dark woman shadows me.
In the morning she sings
Spanish love songs in a high
falsetto, filling my shower stall
with echoes.
She is by my side
in front of the mirror as I slip
into my tailored skirt and she
into her red cotton dress.
she shakes out her black mane as I
run a comb through my closely cropped cap.
Her mouth is like a red bull's eye
daring me.
Everywhere I go I must
make room for her; she crowds me
in elevators where others wonder
at all the space I need.
At night her weight tips my bed, and
it is her wild dreams that run rampant
through my head exhausting me. Her heartbeats,
like dozens of spiders carrying the poison
of her restlessness,
drag their countless legs
over my bare flesh.

                         From Here is My Kingdom, edited by Charles Sullivan. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994.

The Changeling

As a young girl
vying for my father's attention,
I invented a game that made him look up
from his reading and shake his head
as if both baffled and amused.

In my brother's closet, I'd change
into his dungarees -- the rough material
molding me into boy shape; hide
my long hair under an army helmet
he'd been given by Father, and emerge
transformed into the legendary Ché
of grown-up talk.

Strutting around the room,
I'd tell of life in the mountains,
of carnage and rivers of blood,
and of manly feasts with rum and music
to celebrate victories para la libertad.
He would listen with a smile
to my tales of battles and brotherhood
until Mother called us to dinner.

She was not amused
by my transformations, sternly forbidding me
from sitting down with them as a man.
She'd order me back to the dark cubicle
that smelled of adventure, to shed
my costume, to braid my hair furiously
with blind hands, and to return invisible,
as myself,
to the real world of her kitchen.

                             From The Latin Deli by Judith Ortiz Cofer, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1993. 

Saint Rose of  Lima

                                          Never let my hands be to any one
                                           an occasion for temptation.

                                                    —Isabel De Flores

She was the joke of the angels—a girl
crazy enough for God

that she despised her own beauty; who grew bitter herbs
to mix with her food,

who pinned a garland of roses to her forehead;
and who, in a fury of desire

concocted a potion of Indian pepper and bark
and rubbed it on her face, neck, and breasts,

disfiguring herself.
Then, locked away in a dark cell,

where no reflection was possible,
she begged for death to join her with her Master

whom she called Divine Bridegroom, Thorn
in My Heart, Eternal Spouse.

She would see His vague outline, feel His cool touch
on her feverd brow,

but as relief came, her vision would begin to fade,
and once again she would dip the iron bar into the coals,

and pass it gently like a magician’s wand over her skin—
to feel the passion that flames for a moment,

in all dying things.

The Pleasures of Fear

We played a hiding game,
the son of my mother's friend and I,
until he chased me into the toolshed
and bolted the door from outside. It was there,
in the secret, moist dark, the child's game changed
to adventure. As I listened through the splintered wood
to his ragged breath, his weight pressing down
on the thin wood, making it groan, waiting
while I stood on the other side, I was
caught in time, thrilled and afraid by his power,
by his power to strike, and mine to yield.

I crouched close to the ground
inhaling the sour-sweet potpourri of rancid oil,
rotting wood, old leather, and rust. I could have died
right then and there, of anticipation,
and become one with the molecules
in the laden air. I was deliciously afraid of all
the invisible creeping, crawling dangers inhabiting
the luscious ground where I squatted to pee,
allowing impulse and need to fully overtake me,
inviting all the demons that reside in dark damp
hiding places into my most secret self.

Not since then has pleasure and fear in the dark
been so finely tuned in my mind, except perhaps
in moments of passion when all we know
is surrendered to the demands of skin and blood.

Then the pizzicato of the predictable afternoon shower
on that half remembered island, rain every day at four,
and her piercing voice, growing nearer,
the cutting slash of light. She had caught the boy
peeking through a crack at me doing what?
She did not want to know.

I was sent straight to the bath, as if
the delectable stink of danger I had discovered
could ever be washed off with plain soap and water.