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March 2008

ISSN 1543-6063

Special Guest Editor: Emma Trelles
For more information on and the latest guidelines for MiPOesias, please stop by

March 2008 Volume 22, Issue 3

4 grisel y. acosta Dream Water Breath Death • Holographic Glitter • Concentric Circles
7 rich villar 174th Street • Ode to Henry Kissinger • Definitions
11 elisa albo Baby, I Love Your Way • Hatikva • Getting Out of the Kitchen and On With Your Life
14 emma trelles How to Write A Poem: Theory #62 • What Would Have Happened if I Had Married
You • In an Alcove Between the Beacon and the Avalon • Autumn Unexpected
16 sandra castillo Quickening Days • This is What Happens When I Fall Asleep
20 virgil suarez La Madre del Agua • Balsero/Rafter • Blue Cuban • Moon
22 suzanne frischkorn Letra • What It Means to be Cuban, Hyphenated • Clerestory Sky •
24 achy obejas May First • 3 Stories
25 hugo rodriguez C-Shift • D.O.A • The Gods of Rescue
26 Mia leonin When I Arrive • Unraveling the Bed • Aparicion de la Virgen • A Miami Story
30 kemel zaldivar Poem • Apostrophes to the Sky • How to Read Dick Case
31 adrian castro Handling Destiny: On Crossing Borders • Handling Destiny: Tools of the Trade •
The Fickle Nature of Friendship
40 diego Quiros The Sun • Superfluous Touch (while riding the metro) • Wind
42 kristina martinez The Escape Artist Otherwise Known as Our Lady of Charity • Fit of Cypress
on the Dirt Hill
45 Rita maria martinez Reading Jane Eyre • Jane Eyre’s Fashion Remedy • Saint John Rivers Pops
the Question on Jane Eyre
48 dulce menendez Miami • How To Paint A Cuban Dream
50 Caridad mccormick Puta • Quinceñera • Erosion
52 richard blanco New Orleans Sestina Against Order • Even if the Sun Explodes • Looking for the
Gulf Motel, Marco Island, Florida
17 Oscar hijuelos, rhythm king Kirk Curnutt reviews Oscar Hijuelos’s Rhythm King.
34 The Invention of Skin: Love, Magic and Miracle in Mia Leonin’s Poetry Michael Parker
reviews Mia Leonin’s Unraveling the Bed.
44 micro-review Julie R. Enszer on Achy Obejas’s chapbook This is What Happened in Our Other Life.

front cover The Ecstasy of St Theresa (Diego Quiros) is about the moment just prior to making love. The actual moment of
ecstasy in lovemaking is captured inside the triangle, which marks the transition between this world and the other. The triangle
represents the vulva, and the angelic symbols written around its border represent creation, the doorway to giving life. The arrow on
top is Cupid’s arrow about to strike. The flowers are Angel’s Trumpets, which, much like making love, are highly intoxicating and are
sometimes ingested for recreational or shamanic intoxication. The painting is a combination of the Bernini sculpture, a model from a
Victoria’s Secret catalog, and the painter’s own attempts at experiencing small moments of divinity through the body of another.
L e tt e r f r o m t h e e d it o r

When MiPO publisher Didi

Menendez first asked me to edit
the American-Cuban issue, I had
some particular ideas about the
poems I wanted to include. Mostly,
these thoughts were a list of what
I wanted to avoid. I did not wish to
publish odes to a palm-rich island.
I did not want to read about ripe
mangos or assimilation or the one
suitcase everyone crammed their
lives into when they fled from the
revolution. I thought the American-
Cuban poet was now beyond the
tropical motifs and the ever-present
contemplation of the past. It was

Didi Menendez’ our time to show we could write widely; we were not hyphenated poets compelled by our histories, but
simply writers working our craft in fresh ways. And I was right. And I was wrong.

portraits bring out the The 18 poets in this issue of MiPO showed me that we are still telling our stories, and there is no tale

poem in the poet.

without a beginning. Where we come from is as vital to our lives as blood and air. Yet the poems on these
pages frequent the past as readily as the present, or even the imagined, and they are all places filled with
remarkable voices. They tell of road trips to New Orleans and Key West, of the resurrection of Jane Eyre,
of the deities we pray to and for whom we light candles. At times these poems are not narrative but lyric,
floating freely between dreams and cities, between the the moon and the harvest. Some voices speak
for the those who can no longer be heard, the ones who did not survive the desperate ocean passage
between fascism and freedom.

The late Cuban poet, writer and dissident Reinaldo Arenas once noted that his people were defined by
see more portraits at the noise because Cubans can neither enjoy nor suffer in silence. We must be heard. So it goes with the
American Poet Portrait Collection poems in this issue. They are insistent and fierce. They make a fine noise.

Emma Trelles

march 2008 mipo | 3


Grisel Y. Acosta Holographic Glitter

…on my eyes, when snow is between my toes and platform shoes.

Dream Water Breath Death I can’t go on begging in subzero weather,

laughing at how dead disco jealous you are
She rests on a beach she is not allowed on. Her clothes are from a store she cannot afford. In her as green absinthe creeps out of my teeth and nails
dreams she wakes up to a house that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. The flies have when you try to hurt me with weave-wearing women.
turned into water lilies that flap like fans to cool the midday death sun. The family dog takes her
on a tour of the church spires that Gaudi-twirl into the depths of the inner labyrinth. Books line the Blistered bruises…
walls of the room at the end of the spiral darkness that illuminates the words she never sees. Brown
stained carvings reach to her and guide her into the main hall escalator where students ignore …on my feet and calves after sweat dancing ‘til last call.
her arrival. She gets lost looking for her locker which has a combination she cannot remember. I can’t go on strutting into broken glass liquor rooms,
Her platform shoes were not given to her so she walks barefoot dancing on the egos of spit in your hair photo girls
in golden sandals. Red candles mimic the blood on her hands as the Carib maraca DJ and I become one wax groove
which belongs to the mother she did not murder. The bicycle she when everyone else is wishing for the radio mix.
wished for is not hanging on the back stairs that she repeatedly
walks down while holding a knife. She is in the room she cannot Lit formaldehyde…
find again and the students appear and reappear. If she crawls
out of the knick knack nook she will be in her house again which …in my mouth, when forgotten family history is buried under party loft slats.
she is already inside of. Her mother buys cheap ornaments that I can’t go on crawling in hazy stupid stupor on futons and old cereal,
are expensive. The house is transparent to sunlight when she floating between kill the dendrites and pronunciato memoria,
crawls into the darkness of the church spires and book room and as Julia de Burgos and Nicolas Guillen simultaneously dare me
when I thought I’d taken every dare and come out the brave one.
the modern school. The larger rooms are within the walls which
are skinnier than she is because not even the walls have eaten. She smiles her sadness with closed
Dust crusted DNA…
lips to hide the cosmetic dentistry that hasn’t been done. Her cousin doesn’t send letters that she
reads closely to connect with the outside world. Water fills the school and she underwater paddles
…in my veins and saliva as outbursts burn inside once motionless eardrums.
through the columns and arches and banisters. When she wakes up she is in the ocean that is not
I can’t go on silencing greatgrandmotherfathers with vinegar bandages,
hers and swims with dreams that salt the world inside her walls.
squeezing down faces tree branches with dead air culture,
as I hear what could be a stifled whimper that says, “danceshinespeak.”
grisel y. acosta was born and raised in Chicago by her Cuban mother and Colombian father. Her parents met during their studies at the Seminario When my voice and body and ancestry merge, the color is ecstasy.
de Matanzas and fell in love while sitting under flamboyan trees on top of a hill that overlooked the city. They married, moved to Colombia, then New
York, then Chicago. Grisel, as an adult, moved to New York where she met her husband, Vincent, at a poetry reading.

Grisel has a B.A. in journalism, a M.Ed. in English and is now pursuing her Ph.D. in English as a Hispanic Leadership Scholar in San Antonio. She
writes news and feature articles, songs, short stories and plays, in addition to poetry, and she often performs her work. Grisel has been a featured poet
at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, the Bowery Poetry Club, La MaMa, the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, the Geraldine Dodge East Bruswick Poetry
Festival, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, and many other venues across the United States.

Her work has been published in Chicago’s After Hours Literary Magazine, the NAACP Image Award-nominated Check the Rhyme: An Anthology of
Female Poets and MCs, and the upcoming Latino/a issue of Pembroke Literary Magazine, among others. Influences seen in her work include urban v.
rural living, Chicago house and punk music, multiculturalism, multilingualism, sci-fi, mathematics, cyberspace, female identity and class issues. Her
monthly blog is

4 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 5

p o e t r y : g r is e l y . a c o st a poetry

Concentric Circles
Rich Villar
My cousins ask for Vuarnet
sunglasses and Girbaud jeans.
174th Street after A. R. Ammons
My parents cannot afford such gifts. Instinct, only,
Huge photo portraits of Dorquitas and Angie to see and hear whatever is coming and going,
grace the high-ceilinged sitting room. losing the self to cold brick and telephone poles,
I am jealous. live wire sparking at the puddle, undulating
When I ask the fuzzy-haired maid for candy, asphault fired beneath rubber and sun:
she expects some money.
“Noooo!” is all I can answer; Sam tells you it's not you
so much as what you can write down
my embarrassment has no words.
between Con Edison and the scattering cucaracha,
No one has explained that even candy costs money.
who was here before you,
who will be here after
the last bomb drops.
Logan Square is a tough mix
of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Polish and Chinese
Under the 174th Street Bridge,
food, music, lacquered cars and glitter nail polish.
the Bronx River feeds green
By sixth grade, we’ve learned blue eyeliner
to shattered concrete and poisoned soil.
looks best when it’s running.
What were once weeds, now trees,
I hide my fear. bursting through unfriendly ground
When the third-run movie theater boy to snake around the bridge's rusted neck.
asks to rap to me
the answer is yes. Green glass bottles grow in the branches
One older girl watches us with interest; (each one pregnant with new rain),
the big brother usher tsks and says, “You’re too young.” and the gods of project housing
build bigger brick cathedrals,
III. where their landlords seal winter inside.
A white man decides my math
skills are better than what others thought. "Muerte bottles," Sam reflects. "In memory
Honors algebra will be the new home I of the dead." I count them each.
cannot speak of to my neighborhood
friends. They wouldn’t get it. God is the memory
I like variables. of a small glass bottle, the music of a tree
A year later, geometry theorems confine me. turned windchime in August. I hear life
Neon yellow grids with infinite numbers where death should be, sunlight smiling
capture me, direct me, trap me. through glass and leaves. Surrendered self
They take shape among stars in space, among unwelcoming forms: stranger, leave
but my theory is different. your burdens, leave the road.

6 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 7

poetry: rich villar

Ode to Henry Kissinger Definitions

O baby baby I love you like Venezuela loves left-wing politics. CRITICISM (n.)
baby of my soul-lover temptation I love you like an Ayatollah and failed embargoes. a. the act of criticizing usually unfavorably,
bosomkiss Roosevelt Corollary, I love you like Saddam's statue smashing b. the art of evaluating or analyzing works of literature,
you break my heart so perfectly fourfivesixseven thousand U.S. troops. c. the scientific investigation of literary documents in regard to such matters as origin,
with your mouth like a coup d'etat. I love you like death camps, death squads, t text, composition, or history.
death marches, and death.
Take me to your catacombs, Comandante, I love you like an Al Qaeda boxcutter, SCIENCE (n.) The state of knowing.
let me breathe in your disappeared, tower one, tower two.
your shapeshift moneydrift ART (n.) The applied expression of knowledge.
policy statements, Teach me how to love your Patriot Acts,
presidents and privileges, executive your missile defense systems POET. (n.) from the Greek, poiesis, a making or creating.
and otherwise. and slowed disaster responses. One who makes
Let your angel breath, Teach me, Henry, combines
sweeter than all Allendes, how to love your world. One who combines (synthesizes)
carte blanche my assassinations. One who synthesizes words in sequence to create meaning for readers.
Helicopter gunship lover, See also: Scientist.
Pinochet me until I howl in your barracks,
hard and fast like a Fort Benning bugle POET. (v.) to engage in the business of writing poetry.
waking all neighbors foreign and domestic. e.g. “We were out poeting again, though she hates hummus.”

Interrogate me with your Sandinista thighs, FICTION (n.) a story that is not true, told to convey a central thesis.
and I will swim naked in your napalm lakes,
your treaty violations, NON FICTION (n.) a story that is true, told to convey a central thesis.
your Vietnam heroin caskets.
You U.N. charter, let me taste your disdain POEM (n.) a series of words sometimes arranged into metered lines that may or may not be a story,
for international law, may or may not be true, may or may not convey a central thesis, may or may not challenge the
you precedent, you loophole, reader to pull statues from pedestals.
you unelected unelector.
Serve at the pleasure of my President, POETRY (n.) the engaged business of the poet.
now and forever, amen. e.g. “I’m going to the poetry again. No, they are not paying me.”

rich villar is a child of 1980’s North Jersey excess: big hair,

freestyle club music, urban/suburban sprawl, bodegas, and loud house
parties. He survived a childhood spent learning Bob Jones-approved
Fundamentalist dogma at two private Christian schools, as well as the
long slog of state-funded undergraduate education, and various stints
flirting with careers in law, politics, and retail electronics sales.

8 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 9


Elisa Albo
Getting Out of the Kitchen and
on with Your Life
There's no hot milk skin test
of doneness no meat thermometer
popping up kitchen timer jolting

your complacency no toothpick slipping

out cleanly dry no cake edges separating
from a hot pan gelatin setting souffle rising

water absorbing your kitchen

won't smell like fried fish for days
there'll be no smoking skillet sticky counters

muddy floors when you're done

when it's time someone will yank open
the oven door unbolt the front and back doors

for a cross breeze yeah, you're

whipping up a storm and you'll finally
deeply take an untrammeled breath

and get out steam escaping a kettle

dissipating fading like a far off
train whistle into a moon-burned night.

march 2008 mipo | 11

p o e t r y : e l is a a l b o

Baby, I Love Your Way Hatikva

Each wave rises like an arched eyebrow The mournful sounds of “Hatikva” waft in
on the shore. Its crash creates a mighty from the patio, my daughter lifting each syllable
foam I could wash in if I hurried. of the Israeli anthem she learned in preschool
A brush dipped in fire, the sun paints as if from a heart she can’t know is hers,
the Pacific white-hot, Pollack dripping each tender tone a dull stab in my chest—
enamel. Her surface sizzles like chiles “Hatikva” was my grandmother’s favorite song.
in grease and swings a lacy skirt along Mima rarely listened to music or stepped into
the sand—a campesina from Colima a synogogue, but if “Hatikva” came into her hearing,
dancing el baile del iguana. Afternoon she would clutch her heart and sigh as if for all
smells like a skull-split coconut, like Kent of her losses. As a young woman in Turkey
Ellsworth’s car when we parked on Beerman’s when my grandfather first appeared at her house,
Point in ‘76, sixteen-year-olds saturating she didn’t like him until a younger sister noted
the bicentennial the small-town way his beautiful blue eyes. Gursusica, Mima thought,
we knew how—no one arched an eyebrow then. I’d better grab him before she does. They married,
In Mexico for a rest, I’m far away moved to Spain, had ten children, never saw
from those fumblings—hijole, ‘mano, one their parents again. In ‘43, my grandfather died
can miss those moments when anxiety of pneumonia, their oldest child 14, their youngest,
was fraught with comedy, when failure my mother, one. Franco, fear, bombs, hunger.
in the form of razor-sharp zippers and burst After the war, they migrated to Cuba—Castro,
buttons split us with laughter and sent us fear, guns, less hunger—then the U.S.
for beer. “Baby, I love your way, every day…” There is a picture of Mima, my mother, my sister,
was our Neitzche. We were as careless my niece—four generations in the house I grew up in.
as cargo ships. We dove into the sea Mima died in ’85. My daughter was born nearly
like torpedo pelicans and years later twenty years later. She sings “Hatikva”
came up with our catch. Mimi drove her deliberately—Ko o lo va ley va, pa ni iI ma, nefesh yehudi
little brother to a speech therapist ho o mia...—and Mima shuffles by in her slippers, again
and, as soon as he could, made him learn crossing the family room, admonishing me
her real name. In time, she left town for walking barefoot on the cold tile floor.
in a hot little Celica, a red standard I kiss her cheek and follow her into the kitchen,
she couldn’t test-drive, not ‘til she learned watch her smooth and able hands make
to shift gears. Here in Manzanillo, palm borekas and biscochos, the doughy pastries
fronds shake their curves like shy coquettes. and sweet biscuits of my youth. My baby cries.
“Yo soy una mujer sincera, de donde She’s hungry, Mima says, and for a moment,
crece la palma….” As I walk the beach, we are in the same room, listening.
a catty seamstress pricks my feet with her
teeth. I met the man of my dreams and one elisa albo was born in Havana and grew up in Lakeland, Florida.
week later, left him for a month. Each day is All of her grandparents were Sephardic Jews from Turkey who
emigrated to Spain or Cuba and then to the United States.
the last of its kind we’ll be apart. The waves
Elisa’s poetry has appeared in Alimentum, Crab Orchard Review,
crush the shore in ferocious approval. The MacGuffin, Poetry East, Tigertail: A South Florida Annual, and
Irrepressible Appetites. Her chapbook, Passage to America, was
published by March Street Press in 2006.

12 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 13


Emma Trelles What Would Have Happened If I Had Married You

We buy a house. Not one of those Spanish-tiled numbers that have drowned this town with their

How To Write A Poem: stealthy shine; our home has hardwood dignity, pewter fixtures, fruit trees out back. We hire a
cleaning lady. Her name is Pilar. She dusts the grain and amber furniture, cooks our dinner at
Theory #62 night - gallo pinto, plantains, all forms of slaughtered meat. Pilar smokes on the back patio. She
makes me want to smoke too, only I can’t because I’m trying to get pregnant and read that I
The beginning should eat the eyes. should purge myself of all I love before conceiving.
It’s the part of the movie where you step into line
at the bodega with our Lady of the Sponge Curlers. At night I listen for your snore, wait for your octopus stretch across the bed. I slip across the
She’s buying toilet paper and Mahatma rice. This is her life patio, past key lime, mango, sapodilla and mamey. White-soled and ravenous, I climb branches,
and you happened to ease into it at the wooden lull swallow skins, save the seeds for later, knowing even the shriveled ones can bear life.
between explosions.

You could also begin while she’s watching

her husband drop the scotch he’s sucked for days,
In an Alcove Between the Beacon and the Avalon
hear the glass break magnificent rain over the linoleum. Hotels, sure, but also pastel monoliths to fortune and revival,
to traveler’s palms, to citronella, to mambo and techno;
If you are still mouthless Praise bay leaves, star jasmine,
use seraphim and penumbra. alleys seeded with saffron and ordered refuse,
Both will drape the frame in velvet, praise the diamond-clad ships cruising the horizon,
pearl the hems with high art and smart girl words that hide fluid and pre-ordained, and the sky
god please god don’t let me flinch fail fall into the dark. chalked cobalt and plum, everything
A mention of Babel or blackberries rose-soaked until the very air is watercolored solace.
wouldn’t hurt either.
So what if we’re rum-drunk, if we dined on too much
The question of where to snap chocolate and salt and the good meat of grouper?
the line at its finest edge These are the godly nights, belonging exactly
can freeze the brain with dread. to what is loved: a friend’s voice, the familiar
The blade must be sharp enough to halve hands at the elbow, and the wind plying
the moon and the dark emma trelles was born in Miami and has never the skin, grateful for summer.
clutter of sky. lived more than 30 minutes from the Atlantic
Ocean. Emma’s first language was Spanish but
Ignore this for she learned to speak americano by watching
the moment. Sesame Street. Today she makes her living as an
art critic and staff writer at the Sun-Sentinel.
Autumn, Unexpected
There is nothing left Emma is a Pushcart Prize nominee for poetry, The problem with buying concert tickets in advance:
except the flutter of wings beneath the stabbing, and her poems and essays have appeared in you never know what axis you’ll be resting on
New Millennium Writings, OCHO, Gulf Stream,
the woman before the stove, stirring rice and wishing death, Newsday, the Miami Herald, and Latina. She is a
when the not-so-grand event arrives, say, Jane’s Addiction,
the river outside her window, how it glosses after rain, series editor of the Tigertail anthologies and has sewn up and slap-lacquered, just in time to join the musty
not like mirrors or a polished lens, simply taught creative writing at the Florida Center for clans of reunion tours, looping the country like shriveled
the Literary Arts, the ArtCenter/South Florida troubadours, in search of hands to make them whole.
water, falling, dark.
and Florida International University.
At least the nights have lost their heated metal edge,
Her first book of poems is forthcoming this fall
from MiPO Press.
and the moon is ringed in amethyst and slate,
and the band has somehow crept through the city
of bodies to a small off-stage altar.
14 | mipo march 2008 Kites spin above heads. Dust rises into light. mipo | 15
poetry review

Sandra Castillo
Quickening Days
My mind spins with an afternoon wind blurring my life into the gray of
the highway and the shade of your lids, an ocean of alcohol splashing
inside you, pulling you towards an edge I want to keep you away from. Oscar Hijuelos,
Rhythm King
We drive with the windows down, the falling afternoon refracting the
April sun wrapping around my head like a halo of brightness. You blast
the radio as loud as my father used to, the shadow of the past looming,
La Fabulosa, his nostalgic Cuban songs, Celia Cruz, “Pinar del Rio que
lindo eres de Guanajay hasta Guanes,” yet another version of “El Dia
Que Me Quieras,” salsa favorites, “Los zapatos de Manacho son de
carton, son de carton,” complete with lane weaving and that tap, tap,
tapping on the horn helping him keep time on the steering wheel of the
white Impala with the electric windows that I feared would cause our
eventual death when we fell into the canal along West 4th, drowning us
a review by Kirk Curnutt
all since he was the only one who knew how to swim.
In 1994, Martha Bayles published a critique of rigeur to lament the stunted, Raymond Carver-style
There is a whole repertoire in this guidebook of self-destruction rock ‘n’ roll entitled Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of of minimalism that dominated American writing
mapping our lives with amber-colored helplessness in the land of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music. in the 1970s and 80s, we still live in the age of the
shame and lament, damn inheritance nobody wants, but he is speeding,
Her thesis was that mainstream popular music declarative sentence. Fiction written in this mode
weaving, reaching beyond the blur of cars, shadowboxing in Miami
traffic, alcohol singing with him, “Yo no estaba en el arroyo cuando had grown increasingly anti-musical because rock is the literary equivalent of IKEA furniture—sleek,
sé murió Don Goyo. Qué pregunten, qué pregunten. Qué averiguen el had abandoned rhythm under the mistaken (and urban, hip, but irredeemably cold. The reasons for
embrollo,” and I know this is no way to travel, but I am no escapist. racist) assumption that its black traditions embodied its plodding simplicity are many: the desire to convey
shock and primitivism instead of syncopation and emotional detachment and ennui, the presumption
swing. Hole in Our Soul was neither the first nor that readers can no longer abide intricate styles, the

This is What Happens the last time this argument has been made, and it
is always guaranteed to rile the rock establishment
fear of appearing too literary. Many writers these
days, like their rock counterparts, seem wholly
When I Fall Asleep
sandra castillo was born in Havana and
left the island in Summer 1970 on one of into defending the supposedly liberating values of flatfooted when it comes to rhythm.
President Johnson’s freedom flights. Her poems
all things loud, hard, and fast. Last fall, when New
Though I cannot see myself, have appeared in On Growing Up Latino in the Whenever the lack of musicality gets too much for
I know that I am there, standing US (Henry Holt & Co, 1994), Fifty-Five Latino Yorker pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones chided the
me to bear, I reach for Oscar Hijuelos. Given that
on the gray, greased-stained driveway Poets (Persea, 1995), Little Havana Blues (Arte notoriously insular indie rock scene for failing to
at Tía Alina’s, en Marianao, La Lisa, Publico Press, 1996), The Poetry of Displacement he is best-known for a novel about Cuban brothers
(University of Iowa Press, 2001), Burnt Sugar,
attempt any “musical miscegenation” out of political
en la Habana, Cuba. mamboing to fame in the 1950s, it is not surprising
Caña Quemada, Contemporary Cuban Poetry correctness, he ignited a comparable firestorm that
(Free Press, 2006), and more. that his style would prove so complimentary to his
must have given Bayles a twitch of empathy. She, too,
Sunlight outlines my hair, subject matter, which usually involves some musical
Castillo is an amateur genealogist and South was harshly attacked for daring to point out that rock
a halo, and the wind, the perfect partner, Florida resident. Her collection, My Father angle. Hijuelos is a devout jazz fan and amateur
whirls my flower-print dress, Sings to My Embarrassment, was published by long ago lost its roll.
touches my knees, musician who is on record as stating “I absolutely
White Pine Press. She has work forthcoming in
spins me into a waltz Nimrod International Journal of Poetry & Prose, In my crankier moods, I sometimes fantasize about despise modern rock and roll.” As a result, his prose
of tropical colors, 13 Moons, Coal City Review, The Comstock writing an essay that, like Bayles and Frere-Jones, eschews the sort of stolid, stultifying rigor that a
and I tilt back into a distance Review, Gargoyle Magazine, and Lake Effect.
would ask where the groove has gone—only in prose, 4/4 beat often devolves into. If it were possible
that echoes
not music. Nearly twenty years after it became di to transcribe his sentences to treble and clef, the
like the skin of summer.
march 2008 mipo | 17
r e v i e w b y k i r k c u r n u tt

resulting chart would reveal how he lavishes in It would be wrong to say that Hijeulos’s sentences I won’t bore you with the names of all the technical The Nazi appropriation of art is not a new theme in
unusual and shifting time signatures, alternating are attempts to emulate specific types of Cuban effects in play here. The point is that the rhythm- literature, but its juxtaposition to Hijuelos’s richly
cadences and accents, and dense, polyphonic chord music. I doubt such a thing is really possible. tapping exercise won’t work. Hijuelos so varies informed portrait of Cuban musicality makes it feel
structures. Hijuelos may title a book A Simple Habana Rather, his fondness for heavily subordinated, his sentences structures—burying the verb behind as if it were. As with Mambo Kings, the novel seeks
Melody (2002), but the description is deceiving only to almost labyrinth-like syntax allows him to create subordinate clauses here, lobbing them upfront there, to educate the reader on Cuban forms—particularly
those who don’t know that in jazz the melody is often beats that swing through their irregular pacing. By doubling and tripling them elsewhere with all those the zarzuela, a type of Spanish opera—but the book’s
the simplest element of the composition. It has to be; avoiding the staccato, metronomic feel that overly ands—that our natural inclination to ground the beat triumph would be muted if not for the virtuoso
otherwise, what rumbas below can’t bubble up. consistent stress patterns and metrical feet creates in the pulse of the standard subject/predicate format styling. Here, for example, is Hijuelos describing
in, say, iambic pentameter, he generates rhythms simply doesn’t work. It’s a paragraph designed to Israel’s everyday inspiration on the streets of Habana:
For readers whose knowledge of popular music only
that effectively play around the reader’s sense of sweep our eyes off their feet.
goes back as far as Elvis Presley, Hijuelos’s work is a The tick tack rapping of the shoemaker’s
where the downbeat should fall—an old drummer’s
veritable primer on 20th-century Cuban styles, both As popular and historically important as Mambo hammer, brooms sweeping dust out of
trick that lends what can only be called sway to the
their history and variety. Suffice it to say that before Kings remains, it is not—in my humble opinion— darkened entranceways, the cries of children
flow of a cadence. A good experiment to understand
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989)—the first Hijuelos’s greatest hit. I’ve always thought Nestor playing in the gutter, the singsong chants of
the resulting effect is to try to tap a consistent beat
novel by a Hispanic writer to win the Pulitzer Prize— dies way too early in the plot, leaving Cesar to ride vendors selling newspapers, coffee, lottery
on one’s wrist while reading the following passage,
mainstream America’s understanding of Latin beats out shifts in 1960s’ and ’70s’ musical tastes that tickets and roasted peanuts—“¡Mani!”—others
which describes an early Mambo Kings performance:
was limited to film and television flashes of Xavier are too often described in a remote summary style ringing bells and selling shots of aguardiente
Cugat, Tito Puente, and, of course, Desi Arnaz. And then, when the song had turned around that mutes the pathos of the surviving brother’s and bottles of medicinal items with names like
However brilliant, these musicians tended to provide again and Cesar sang the last verse, [Delores] fall into obscurity. My own favorite, instead, is A ‘Neptune’s Cure’ to protect against malaria, for
a sensuous, congo-paddling backdrop for whatever stood under the stage where the trumpet play Simple Habana Melody, which strikes me both as half of the city slept under mosquito netting at
romantic or comedic intrigues were happening in was standing, and smiled at him. He had been more dramatically precise and, interestingly enough, night. He heard music in the sonorous tinkle
the foreground; even on I Love Lucy, scenes in which lost in a stony-faced concentration, but he was more musically complex. The story of composer of water-splashed fountains, in the clip clop of
Arnaz’s Ricky Ricardo led his orchestra through a happy to see her. Then they went into a fast Israel Levis’s journey from 1930s’ Cuba to expatriate horse hooves, in the clanging of church bells, in
rousing number were rarely more than setups for number, a mambo. Sly smile on his face, Cesar Paris to the hell of Nazi Buchenwald and back, it the straining voices of divines preaching in the
Lucille Ball’s slapstick. The brilliance of the famous Castillo gave a nod to the percussionist, whose explores the conflicts between politics and art to placitos on Sunday mornings. And in churches,
scene in Mambo Kings in which Cesar and Nestor hands were taped up like a boxer’s, and he ask a seemingly insoluble question: at what point, if like Jesús María, or Nuestra Señora del Pilar,
Castillo appear on I Love Lucy as Manny and Alfredo started to bop, bop, bop on a quinto drum, and any, does the consolation of music become an escape or Espíritu Santo, which he frequently visited,
Reyes, singing their bolero “Beautiful María of My in came the piano with its Latin vamp, then from the horrors of inhumanity? The question is for the stony saints and images of the suffering
Soul,” rests in the contrast between the musicians’ the alternating bass. Another nod from Cesar explored through the contrast between two pivotal Jesus inspired him, the latter two being the
authentic feeling of transcendence as they perform and the others came in, and Cesar started moments. First, the narrative circles repeatedly back churches, where, in fact, he had gotten his
with Arnaz and Ball’s shticky professionalism in dancing before the big ball microphone, his to the writing of Israel’s most famous rumba, “Rosas musical start as a child prodigy of nine playing
delivering her trademark plea: “But, Ricky, you white leather, golden-buckled shoes darting Puras,” inspired by the beautiful Rita Valladares, the organ (and receiving the grace of God)
promised me the chance to sing on the show!” And in and out like agitated compass needles. And whose interpretation of the song is as close as she during services…
while the brothers’ fictional appearance on television Nestor, standing in with the bass, blew his and Israel come to consummating their mutual
Most simply, he would thank God for bringing
launches their career, one of the novel’s underlying trumpet so hard in his exhilaration over seeing desire. Then, more elliptically, are the references to
him into the world in which such a magicality
themes is how their musical dexterity at not only Delores, whose presence seemed to soothe his Israel performing the song for the obergruppenfurhrer
like music existed.
boleros and mambas but cha-cha-chas and congas is inner pain, his face turned red and his pensive of Buchenwald, something he must do to survive
lost upon audiences unschooled in the distinctions head seemed ready to burst. And the crowds but which taints his belief in the sublimity of music: I’ll take a paragraph like this any day over the martial
and between these musical modes. To the crowds that on the dance floor wriggled and bounced, and “What tormented him was the violation of his belief chop of rock-bred writers. Given how abbreviated
come to revel in the heat of the Mambo Kings’ brief the musicians enjoyed Nestor’s solo and were that goodness would prevail over evil in the world, e-mail speak seems to reshaping reader tastes into
fame before Nestor’s premature death, Latin music is shaking their heads, and he played happily, that the sovereignty of beauty should have magically short blasts of epigrammatic chatter, I’ll go so far as
all one big generic hip-shaking opportunity to shout just hoping to impress Delores. protected him from the likes of Reinhard Heydrich, to thank God that we still have writers like Hijuelos
Olé! expediter of the ‘final solution’ in France.” to keep the magicality of music on the printed page.

Virgil Suarez Blue Cuban

Is it her apparition in water?

La madre del agua Balsero / Rafter This distance between two points
that clutches memory?
She’s learned to stay down for good, What lures you to the lip of water,
The way a speck of land, a peak
because water fills her ears with voices, dark in the night? Starglow, moon
rising in the horizon, looms like a titan.
muffled and yet so clear. They speak riddles of light, gauzy, evanescence,
Palm fronds sifted by winds.
to her of this riddle of waves. Plummet. this charm of endless waves,
Clouds bunched up over roofs,
Directions to show her the way. warm water, currents that take you
a sleet rain falling
If not her, her son on a raft above her.
She looks up through water to see him.
always toward tomorrow? What?
Inner tubes, rope, plastic milk jugs,
over banyans, Moon
jacarandas, If it were the Eucharist, it’d be hard to swallow,
She has become one with the hungry the kind tourists bring and discard.
framboyans . . . this moon of lost impressions, a boy in deep water,
depth. Her eyes turn opaline, her hands In them one a hundred cucuyos, fireflies,
Is it the perfect orb of mangos? something tickling his skin. He remembers warm
clutch the shadows, claws at them, their green luminescence a needed
Soursop and papaya aroma? liquid he floated in before, this memory of buoyancy–
become anemones in the chiaroscuro light that illuminates the way
When a flock of feral parrots It is a round kite that somehow still manages to hang
of this half-lit dream. Her effort to push in such intensely ink-dark night.
screech by, the feeling of eternal in the dog mouth blackness of the sky. A medusa
him along render her breathless. Listen carefully to the flow of water,
exile roots itself in water. jellyfish, a paper cutout of the moon. Blemishes and all.
In her lungs, the water is mercury heavy– for it speaks of the way to freedom.
Is it the poet’s song, Lorca’s moment Or is this a savior’s moon? Tranquil though expectant,
it too helps keep her suspended below Two bodies can fit on a slab
of despair, the sound of one bata this boy will float on home, or be swallowed
the surface, anchored against strong currents. of Styrofoam, keeping each warm
drum, the che-che by eternity’s water, serve some higher purpose.
Her fever-ridden son dreams of her in the southerly breeze, teeth chatter
of chekeres? Women dressed Through the pines and mangroves, this moon hovers.
in the star-filled night. Underneath or is it the sound of all the dead balseros
in white with red scarves in their It is the one eye of God that remains open
him she continues to pull along, drag who braved the currents but didn’t beat
him toward shore, freedom, exile. the odds? A worm moon blushes white?
Everyone returns to water here,
Her body a ghostly vessel nobody finds. Who is there to witness such difficult
lured by its secret charm,
crossings? Those who speak with water
listen to a siren’s song.
in their mouths, opaque blue veil in eyes.
Whoever beckons this blueness
forth cannot help but drown in it.
virgil suarez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1962 and emigrated
to the US with his parents in 1974. Suarez attended public schools
in Los Angeles and graduated from CSULB in 1984, then attended
LSU’s MFA program. He moved to Miami where he met his wife, with
whom he shares two wonderful daughters. Suarez has taught at several
schools, including University of Texas at Austin and Bennington
College, and has been a professor of creative writing and literature at
The Florida State University.

20 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 21


Suzanne Frischkorn What It Means to be Cuban, Hyphenated

It means I’m on a journey—
Letra Is the soil blood red, or brick red?
I discovered Cuba chiseled in Retiro Parque. To witness miles of tobacco’s green waves.
Glimpsed Cuba second-hand, and Canadian.
Cuba in picture books, its myths tangled Yes, I know, no yearning for the island,
paper cigar rings, cigar box treasure. or talk about a Mango tree in the backyard (Carol City).

Cuba, I will come to liberate you, I promised What about burrs in the grass pricking my feet?
and toasted “Cuba Libre!” with some Costa
Graffiti? My Cuban sitter built
Rican ladies, they laughed and laughed
and laughed, “That was funny,” they said. a tiled shrine to Mary, my only mother.

On the terrazzo drank café con leche, took I sat at her feet for days.
dawn with Spanish sky. (I have yet to meet What it means to be Cuban
a flamingo I didn’t like and still the stork evades
me.) In Cuba, right now, someone conducts hyphenated? I don’t know—

My father’s from Cuba. I’m American.

a symphony of furtive braiding for a tourist.
She’ll leave before the last braid is half-done. He wanted me to learn one language really well.

Samhain Clerestory Sky

And did you think you would live forever? Perhaps suzanne frischkorn was born in sealed grey, pose the branch and its crimson
Hialeah, Florida to a Cuban father and
as long as an oak tree, a burl on its trunk. And did
American mother of Spanish descent. accoutrements for their last days. The iron
At age five, her family moved to the
you think death would get easier? Like the tree Northeast.   register whistles heat because double hung
sprouting from a skull, leaves tangled and battered She is the author of five chapbooks, most
recently Spring Tide, selected for the windows fail to stall cold air. Leaf’s paper
Aldrich Poetry Award. American Flamingo
was my hair. And did you know it would happen? I texture? A poor communion wafer. Saint Lucia,
is forthcoming from MiPOesias in early
did, the sun outshines the moon, the seed 2008. Lit Windowpane, her first full-length
book, will be released by Main Street Rag lend your crown of candles let
? let
germinates with water and soil. And did you want? Press in autumn 2008.
its wax drip onto hair, let the sparks catch.
Yes. And now what will you do? Her poems have recently appeared or are
forthcoming in Ecotone, Indiana Review, No
Tell Motel, the anthology Conversation
Sing, for the song. Pieces: Poems That Talk to Other Poems
(Knopf, 2007) and elsewhere. Frischkorn
has served as an editor for Samsära
Quarterly and is recipient of a 2007
Artist Fellowship from the Connecticut
Commission on Culture & Tourism.

22 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 23

poetry poetry

Achy Obejas Hugo Rodriguez

May First 3 Stories C-Shift D.O.A
Blue skies and endless tedium we move about here, on the first floor, where we can see mornings, I mop the firehouse floor. Not a word. Not a struggle to survive.
in this paradise for workers the two rocking chairs (their arms arthritic but proud), The overhead doors are up, the trucks: Not a gasp or a groan on a night
and tourists, especially. a black metal stool with a clover green cushion and a a Pierce, an International, and a street–torn Ford the moon is a ruptured spleen.
Everybody’s got something to do. limp, the overflowing work table, the ambassador’s gift shimmy on the station’s wet apron Not the hoarse voice of a preacher
(a portrait in pastels he painted himself, not of anyone as sunlight inches up the glossy terrazzo. who buries another victim.
It’s all within or without he represents but of those he’s come to love on his It’s a glorious start to each tour. Not a few crumbs of small-talk
The Revolution. assignment), framed family photos (none including the No sirens, no strobe lights, no bloodstains, about the terminal disease,
Everybody understands this. husband/father, who’s been replaced by images of a long no-one screaming Run motherfucker not a word on the complications
Everybody understands this. ago and much remembered lover), dishes in buckets on he’s dying here! My mop head simply glides nor a tone to summon the crash cart
the floor (within reach), a standing wall, books (many from side to side. Sure, the gloss will dry. to the CCU. Not a concern. Not a care
A peasant is sitting on a lamp post, books), three bottles of whiskey (green, black and blue The spider-cracks and oil stains will reappear. about the dog or the rude neighbors
black as a nut, white as a ghost. labels), a trophy (one, but representing many), aspirin, a But my mop spit-shines a showroom floor or his wife sobbing in the kitchen.
He holds his chin, smoked ham. and warms my shoulders, each patched Not a prayer. Not a bit of bickering.
hangs on. with Miami and a blue Coconut Palm. Not a polite hello or a simple question:
upstairs, there’s a bed, rain leaking from the roof and
Who is it or Can you please save me?
Me, I’m way over my head, gathering on the long-dead light fixture, a fan on the
over-the-top with nostalgia night table, the ceiling gummy with residue from all the
they'll say, though it's not true -- years of cigarettes, and a mattress, ebbing, its corners The Gods of Rescue
I never had any of this to miss. struggling with the yellow sheets.
The first medics must have seen themselves
Here's what I care about: in here somewhere, there’s an unseen constellation, a as saviors of the sick and street-torn, heroes
The million waving at the plaza, dazzle of stars. who stood roll call each morning, angels
the gesture an acquired trait with wings on their starched uniform collars,
encoded, now innate. silver wings to chariot across city bridges
armed with oxygen and thunder to shock
May first. ailing hearts because everything was not okay.
Watching on the TV.
The phone rings. How handsome they must have appeared,
Oh yeah, just got back, it’s so hot. these men, rising from clouds of cavalry dust
to battle death in the trenches of each tragedy.
We’re experts in lies, Their saves were more beautiful than birth.
in reading between the lines, They could part the purple sky with an amp
in moving the mental furniture of adrenaline. They carried life packs, each hugo rodriguez resides in Hialeah, Florida with his wife, whom he
until it’s comfy here again. held the heartbeat of a thousand little birds. met on a volcanic beach in Costa Rica, and four children. In his spare
time, Hugo coaches little league basketball and tries to develop a
The plaza empties. achy obejas was born in Havana, in el Vedado, and lived there and in Sagua la healthy sense of competition and teamwork in each child.

We wave at the TV Grande the first 6 years of her life. Her family and 6-year-old Achy fled by boat to Hugo has been a firefighter for the City of Miami since 1982, his
just in case. the US and lived in Miami for one year. When she was about to start second grade, current assignment being Chief of Emergency Medical Services. An

Within, without.
her family moved to Indiana. The Midwest and its glorious falls have been her MFA graduate of FIU, his poems have appeared in TriQuarterly, The
base ever since. Bitter Oleander, and Gulfstream.

24 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 25


Mia Leonin A Miami Story

Dear Sister,
When I Arrive At three, I’m leaving.

I want to thank him for picking me up at the airport and depositing my bags in a safe place in the Where is Miguel?
room. I want to thank him for serving water in wineglasses. I want to alert him to the pot boiling Will I know him when I see him?
over in the kitchen, but he assures me it is the wind -- Sssh! His voice is a puff of steam. I watch
him busy himself. He’s calling friends. He’s putting away a coat that hung over the green chair. He’s Dear Sister,
taking a cassette of Issac Oveido from its case. Does he know how long I waited for this moment to I’m leaving with a man who refuses to call me by name.
be in this apartment, to be in any apartment? I touch his shoulder. Although his body is a disaster,
no rib cage holds more fluttering wings. Although his arms are paling and without tone, no Bárbara, Caridad – that first night,
knuckles draw more syncopation from the table’s mute surface. How will I spend my time in this he gave me the names of slaves to choose from.
apartment? I know he must work. I know he must get up and put on shirts and
enter buildings. In what corner of the bathtub will I wash my feet? With what Two slaves, two saints, his leather sandals,
face? With whose shoulders will I lean out the window? I must have a new face Miguel undressing from the bottom up.
in this country. No longer brunette, I’m dark haired. No longer slender, I am
pine. Blood. I must remind myself. We are each filled with ten pints of blood. I chose Caridad – a strip of canary yellow silk
Each person given that amount of fluid to float the spirit on. We cannot drown. he tied in a knot at my wrist on Washington Avenue.

Déjame verte. He pushed me against a display window of sunglasses.

Aparición de la Virgen Let me see you.

When will I know the word widow to mean woman shrouded, woman counting beads Miguel is one thousand and one. He is multiples of eight.
among friends, ash on her upper lip? When will I hear the word widow and not think of music, He is so many rooms to ride through, so many arms to consider.
the hollowed out gourd that fits in the hand of an average-sized man? The oblong fruit gutted
and dried. The deep grooves carved across its belly and played with a thin, wooden stick. Güiro. Siéntate.
He carried it in his pocket like a pinch of salt. Each time he took it out, he held it surprised as if
someone had just handed it to him. Güiro. Widow. Sound of spitting and hissing. Rain fell from Sister, he’s from a town called one hundred fires where everything is written in green –
the mountain into the city onto the linen of our table. We were not alone. The guitar player held green sleeves, green armbands and pant legs, a green eye carved into every intersection.
anchor. I thought he was strumming until I heard music emerge from his hand. I thought there
was only the night and silence and gesturing until I heard the man next to me pound his fist on A woman with a cataract sits on the northeast corner of the plaza sharing her vocation.
the table and claim the Virgin as his own. María! he shouted and I saw her too scratching her way Without a watch, clock, radio, stars or sundial she can tell you the hour. People pass by five
between the fork and the dried up fruit, breathing not from her nose or mouth, but from skins and and six times a day. Children try to trick her. Her right eye is blue and foaming like boiled
furs as animals do. milk.

mia leonin’s was born in Kansas City, Missouri to a Cuban psychiatrist and a nurse Siéntate.
from Louisville, Kentucky. Her first book of poems, Braid, was published by Anhinga What I thought were wise sayings turned out to be simple commands.
Press. A second, Unraveling the Bed, will be released in April 2008 (Anhinga Press). She
was awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize, has been nominated for Pushcart
Prizes, and has been published in New Letters, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, Chelsea
Siéntate. He urged: No stand up.
and Witness. She has been awarded a Money for Women Grant by the Barbara Deming Move into the light, so I can see you better.
Memorial Fund and was the recipient of a 2005 Florida Individual Artist Fellowship.
Leonin is a full-time creative writing instructor at the University of Miami.
Sister, a dress appears.
I’m always wearing the dress and then the night and then the man –
26 | mipo march 2008
mock slapping my face.
p o e t r y : mi a l e o nin

Sigue. How will I know him? Where will I find him?

In this story, there will be no other form of aquatic transport,
I have wanted this – to be incapable in the language of my lover – but my plait unloosening.
to be far from fluency – just one new word.
Dear Sister, at three, I’m leaving.
Sigue. Sigue. I will cast my braid toward one hundred fires and it will fan out like a net,
like a mermaid’s tail.
One day, Miguel happened to be standing behind the woman
and he noticed a clock in her line of vision. Whoever does not help me is my enemy.

He continued to go to her and ask the time. Dear Sister, I must find the man
He watched the children try to trick her and sometimes he did too. who gave me the names of slaves to choose from,
my wrist, a yellow wing on slug-colored Washington Avenue.
A dress appears.
What I thought were simple commands. Those who do not help me are my enemies.

Sigue. I will drown the fishermen who tangle my net.

I will wrap them in my dress of shells and seaweed
I have wanted this – to be praised excessively and dive down deep. I will drown children
in a language I don’t understand, and dissidents alike. I will drown.
to crawl under a word and listen.

Sigue. In English, the literal translation would be, “keep going” but what we really say
is “Don’t stop” – at the center of pleasure – its possible negation. The urge to cover one’s
Unraveling the Bed
mouth– the impulse to shield an exclamation. Because feet need whispering, he spoke Portuguese then Spanish. He spoke between vowels and tangled
reeds. Because I told him No flowers Hold out to me a new word. It would be so easy for him. Because at 4:00
p.m., he says: Que duermas con los angelitos. Impaled angels. Because he insisted quietly and I cannot resist
Miguel, now that my fever has lifted take me to town. a command.
(He never made it here)
Two Frenchmen are selling lava, tables poured from lava. Hugo, the salesman says all the other lavas of the
Weave fruits into my hair. world are too old or too young, only this lava from Mount Etna on the east coast of Sicily can make a table.
(What arrived were his sandals) Fabricio, the artisan nods enthusiastically. They sell miniature chairs and love seats of vinyl. They urge us to
sit and drink from tiny cups and saucers. Because he did not get enough milk as a child, he feeds. Because I
Miguel, carry me in a basket no matter how big I grow. found a stem on him and together we named it No flowers Hold out to me. I don’t ask who he’s loved. I don’t
(Leather shoes washed to the shore of Mile Marker #19) want to know. I want to azul him. I want to sail him. Just one new word. He could flower me and chocolate
me. My body sings him and my mind joins in. Because he didn’t get enough milk. Because my bed did not
bring him closer, but the peripheries of him hovered. Willow. My body did not open him, but how the limbs
Sell my hair to the farmers for water.
took counsel around me. Because I’m worried about wasting it. I want to be sure he can make more before
(Orange rind rubbed into the skin. His shaved chest and hungry palms) we use it. Because he assures me. Because I find it hard to tell him. I chatter and he is mostly silent. Because
he has never told me. Because my body sings and my mind joins in. My body may be wrong. Because he
Miguel, when I wander off, yell for me like your child didn’t get enough. Because my body may be. Because he grips my hair like a mane and leads me. It would be
or your dog too close to the curb. so easy for him to.
(His eyes are buried in a blue boat)
(His curiosity lies napping in the one-eyed woman’s lap) Because he spends his days repairing the device that keeps planes from crashing and I spend my days.
(His disbelief is burrowed behind her milky cataract) Because my days are spent. Because the red neon button glows beneath his hand illuminating his fingertips.
Because we have no visible presence in each other’s lives. Because No, no marks, he said. Because willow
28 | mipo march 2008 you will not always bend. Just one new word.
poetry poetry

Kemel Zaldivar Adrian Castro

Poem Handling Destiny: On Crossing Borders
April is the coolest chick, breeding We reinvent ourselves
sometimes counting beach pebbles
How to Read Dick Case
kittens in her kitchen, mixing
Kool-Aid and vodka, feeding or land-locked cloth holding
her cockatiel chicken. His lines will not, like Legos, interlock
water in place
Sweatshirts kept us warm, covering to form castles or planes.
April in Mickey mice, squeezing His notions do not coil together The issue at hand—
her tits because she winters fat. like snakes in the spring, Geography & who has access
Summer surprised us, coming out of the shower like lovers deft at loving. Identity once you become ours
naked. We sat in her living room, They growl and scratch each other when crossing a pinup border
smoking blunts, eating cheese. and collide to raise clouds that marks you with whipping twigs
of fang and dust, like cartoon cats. That is twigs—
the first slave to ancestors
He wants to show you the shade the first to mast a mask of tattered breeze
Apostrophes to that waits in the corpse, the tits
that fly from the chests of robins.
the Sky
At last in the Caribbean
His old watch ticks
we can begin—
he hears the wind
I of the watch. He has not turned that knob
Indians dressed in aviary monarchy
Madam I will ask you five questions in 30 years, yet noon's still noon, Spanish raiment chorizo’d by jade knife
for which you will furnish ten answers, midnight still is still. stolen at Olmec sculpture
each a permutation of the same, the one (Even African everything)
He wants to show you fall The cloth locked at your waist wading water
answer of the mountains to thunder, of fish is something climbers do, spring (Spanish was spoken here too)
to a pelican's squawk. I will stand in my sleep
is what we learn from crickets, illusory like thin blue pen on the ink of memory
for we know only what we watch:
and command you, O skin.
cars go by, and the girls in the cars Until tomorrow
look at the girls in the others, another river peruses round stones stumbling
II who look in turn at the lookers, any río del Caribe
Yesterday I lit a match, lit a Kool till all look away.
and shoved it into your sternum. You smiled For instance a duck with waddling webbed feet
and gave me kisses. I was pulled to a height armor for feathers
(they say was the prototype for feet)
five times the span of heaven to hell. A border
I saw your entirety. You lay before me kemel zaldivar was born in Havana and grew up in Miami. It was at Cornell
of water & sand
curled and post-coital. Tomorrow that Kemel discovered that being Cuban made him different than all the other all locked neatly in its cloth
boys and girls. He settled in New York City but somehow has ended up in an illusion of control
Miami again. He hopes to return to the city of his birth and live the rest of his
I will send you twelve red jets. like sustained music of carnival
days utterly invisible. Kemel works with mentally-ill Cuban exiles in Little
You can crunch them into roses. Havana. He occasionally pauses to write and has published poetry and prose
Remember me by them. I've flown. in can we have our ball back, Shampoo, Melic, various incarnations of MiPO How do footprints know the future of their feet?
(ersatz Mipoesias) and other venues. How does crooked beach know its balance of blue?
How does the moon get fooled by white curtain?
How does a child bereft
30 | mipo march 2008
p o e t r y : a d r i a n c a st r o

of history make his petition II.

acceptable to spirits? Remember at the end of seven days
a gift of hoe & machete
With gravity as backdrop used at times by your grandfather
more skin begins to reptile then again by his son
Memories drip in collective mutiny At the end of the seven days
a parade of quetzal feathers drums stone calendars divination remember the whipping song
instruments as you with machete & hoe in hand
Language cuts through the persistence of years wrote on the earth diagrams
to form a clear signatures that would sprout shelter
epitaph— words won’t lead you to obstacle’s house
On another day we’ll smile
with multi-colored lips Remember
showing our shiny leopard teeth when she had a dimpled hammock on each thigh
marks from birth from years lying
Handling Destiny: Tools of the Trade diagrams written on her history

They make such uncomfortable clank
The Fickle Nature of Friendship
child of earth
child of fire We are not interested
These are your tools of the trade in erecting glass homes
difficult when you use them jagged angles to slice your hand

A large trunk with children darting The neighbors

in all directions are sloppy with their stone garden
appears slippery in its sheen & prayers are unreliable
adorned with thorns until their bones crash with bones—

There comes a day in a man’s life Then we can begin

when the machete he was given early on an earnest conversation of our time:
adrian castro is a poet, performer, and
can cut into small inheritances I will show you my hand with five bones interdisciplinary artist. Born in Miami, Castro
place them in a large calabash You show me yours is the author of Cantos to Blood & Honey (Coffee
set them aflame House Press, 1997) and Wise Fish: Tales in 6/8
Time (Coffee House Press, 2005). He is the
spill the ashes behind him Then there is water recipient of the State of Florida Individual Artist
to cover his old footsteps crisp like brass from a blacksmith’s well— Fellowship, NewForms Florida, the Eric Mathieu
the one’s he stepped over & over it takes the form of our cupped hands King award from the Academy of American Poets,
NALAC Arts Fellowship, and commissions from
trodden tongue lashing Miami Light Project and Miami Art Museum. He
the atlas of littered women planted is also a Babalawo and herbalist.
over & over every few years in a garden only what glistens can see

32 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 33


the invention
passionate literally feels like it’s coming from I adore the masterful title because it suggests that
"thunder’s mouth." The effect is provocative, exciting, the life-altering events that occurred to Eve in the
and intoxicating. Moreover, and most importantly: Garden are repeated by every woman who longs for
Leonin’s passionate poetry is endearing, thrilling, and connection and the desire to eat of the forbidden

of skin
relevent because of her skill, language, and heart. fruit. This is apparent in the poem’s introduction, in
Each display of passion feels like it was approached which Leonin quotes Helene Cixous: “For us, eating
like a study – analyzing its movement, understanding and being eaten belong to the terrible secret of love.”
its mood, perceiving every emotion, and interpreting
But it is Leonin’s own line that adds abundant insight
each like a thoughtful artist at her easel.
into Eve’s enhanced feelings and her blossoming
Love, Magic and Miracle in Mia Leonin’s Poetry As an example, I introduce you to the young lover sexuality: “She tastes desire in every living thing.”
in Leonin’s poem “Florida Story.” In the waking

a review by Michael Parker moment of this lover’s passion, she begins removing
her dress. Leonin describes this act as if she were
“unbutton[ing] every dress [she’s] ever worn.”
Indeed, Leonin seems to be saying that desire, the
passion to taste of the forbidden fruit is intrinsically
natural. In the companion poem "Apple," she defines
passion most amazingly: “Love, without hunger is a
“...[L]ove reveals a repeated fury.” sexual connection. She also stunningly analyzes sub- This longing to connect, skin upon skin, and desire need without ache.” [p.9]
themes such as love as service; love as the religious “to cleave to the strongest part” overwhelms her so
It is upon this concept that Mia Leonin begins her And it is this ache that Leonin instills so thoughtfully
experience; and love as the brilliant chameleon set greatly that she feels she needs to be completely
bewitching collection, Unraveling the Bed. It is a upon her innocent Eve of “The Repeating Garden.”
against the fierce play of love – the joy and peace; the naked – remove every layer of herself so she can give
stunning and weighty line, taken from Pablo Neruda’s Consider this stanza as an example: “Beneath the
hunger and longing; the sacred act and the shared her truest self to her lover.
poem “Integrations,” in which themes range from fruit, a palm – a hand waits on the other side of her
meal; and the magic and the miracle..
international unity and the struggle of life as it The poem “This Is Not the First Time” is another appetite./ To touch him under the wing – his other
integrally connects with nature, nation, and freedom. With this in mind, it is perfectly fitting that Leonin fine example of passion in Leonin’s works. It’s easy throat./ Is it fragile or painful? Will it startle him
echoes Neruda’s description of love -- that it is a to notice the intoxicating descriptions and sexually- toward her?”
In the poems, stories, and even the spoken word
fierceness that haunts us. Why? I give you three charged images. But it is the beautiful language and
of her collection, Leonin stays away from these Simply beautiful.
reasons: 1) because it is absolutely true. 2) Because prosody in these lines that ultimately grab me:
weightier themes and those of a few of the well-
it is a subject that could grow a library’s-worth of In regards to Eve’s desire for connection, it is
recognized Cuban-American poets -- independence Rhyme of wrists and ankles. Riddle of seaweed and bone:
writings. And, 3) because Leonin establishes a true manifested throughout the poem, but most vividly
and freedom (Reinaldo Arenas); the resistance to did we gallop into other skins to this same drum?
psychological sense of place we are all intimately in the beginning stanza:“She lingers and presses her
orthodoxy (Octavio Armand); isolation, loss, and Is it rhythm or echo – this shoulder blade, this palm,
familiar with – after all, we are human; we are the back into tree trunks in hopes of fusion, an exchange
alienation (Lourdes Casal); exile, migration, heritage, moistened and folding into one?
grand, complex "invention of skin" bedevilled by of calcium and wisdom…” [p. 5]
Cuba’s “disharmony with the world,” and the essence
seemingly hard-coded instincts. We’ve loved before. We’ve entered the body of other bodies,
of Cuba in the literary collective (Pablo Medina, traced arm-shaped shadows on a cave wall. (p.10) Besides the themes of “The Repeating Garden,”
Elías Miguel Muñoz, Jorge Reyes); and socio-political Of all the themes resonating within this work, the highlighting Eve’s and Adam’s transformation from
concerns, particularly those of conformity (Angel most resounding is passion. I am reminded of a line Leonin uses love as a religious metaphor in many
innocence to experience, I am also delighted in
Cuadro). in Shakespeare’s King John. "O that my tongue were poems such as the memorable “The Repeating
the poem’s skillful prosody. Leonin changes the
in the thunder’s mouth! Then with passion would I Garden.” At its root, this poem is a psalm of intimate
Instead, Leonin tackles the lighter, yet highly arduous meter and rhythm in the middle of the poem. The
shake the world..." [3.4.38-40] connection. Leonin stages the poem in the mystical
task of interpreting love. Under the auspices of love, first half of the poem, for example, exhibits long,
Garden of Eden and her narrator, becomes a modern-
Leonin specifically highlights desire, longing, and the Leonin’s display and description of all things pregnant lines that echo the narrator’s innocence. In
day Eve.
r e v i e w b y mi c h a e l p a r k e r

the second half, on the other hand, the rhythm, the What will we call it? Far Away To Dream of cruel or otherwise.
He asks.
staccato alliteration, and shortened stanzas echo the Me?” creates a miracle by
I see evidence of this in this
transformation into experience – seeming to mimic How will we join it to our hips? “divid[ing] [her]self into
line: “[Angela will] return to
the quick patterns and rhythms of intercourse. I’m She answers. loaves [and] conjuring soup
work after four years. She’ll
including, as an example of this, a string of stanzas The wind lifts their wrists. from bone.”
take the hands of strangers
for your review. Note how Leonin’s descriptions and Leaves rustle and rise up orange.
Likewise, the wonderful into her own, as many as
imagery captivate.
She holds the fire in his throat story “Soup and Bread” possible.”
Hooved and throated, she gallops and he eats.
highlights the shared
with his name flying behind her. These two sentences lend
I simply adore these closing lines in which Eve passes meal theme, exhibiting
such depth to Angela -- we
She prays. She dances. on her passion to Adam, in the form of “fire in his the quality of the “we
She compounds her prayers know her needs, her life, her
throat.” And that he partakes of the "fire" from Eve’s take care of our own”
with a sucking gesture. attitude, etc. We sense that
hand lends, yet again, a beautiful insight into the community ideal often
She holds fruit in the palm of her hand. she’s been imprisoned in her
Adam and Eve story. Poetically, this closing couplet is spoken of in regards to the
And he eats: house for four years and has
another magnificent example of Leonin’s poetic voice exiled community. In the
into fractions and decimals been so long removed from
and imagery. story “Soup and Bread,”
into psalms and leftover sandwiches, society, possibly even from
twigs and damp soil. the narrator visits her ill
Another religious metaphor prominent throughout the human touch of friendly
friend Angela, who is a
He eats. He follows. Unraveling the Bed is the act of eating, particularly the hands, that she longs to
recently divorced single-
He runs along side her. hold as many hands as she
shared-meal-as-miracle concept (in which a meal is mother recovering from an
He loses count.
created out of something of small availabilty, offered possibly can.
**** operation (a procedure that
She mates. out of compassion, and gladly received and partaken.) won’t allow her to "be able But at the heart of “Soup and
She doubles her venus.
to have any more children”). Bread” is the act of love. “When everything goes
The significance of the shared meal is that it exhibited
She eats.
the accessibility of God’s grace, the nurturing/ wrong, make soup.”
She glistens and skips.
“Angela drinks from the water glass filled with sleep.
She triples her grief. healing qualities of the communal meal, and the She drinks half and gives the other half to Gabriella,” Symbolically, for the narrator, this act of cooking is an
inclusiveness of the invitation around God’s table, her daughter. This is the visual interpretation of act of healing. Leonin’s narrator explains: “I’ve never
She commands that milk and honey flow from thistle,
representative of the divine community (Kingdom).[1] Angela’s sorrow and suffering. prayed into a soup, but my arm circles in threes.
that flying animals invert their wings.
We sense these qualities, particularly the accessibility Pinch of paprika. Circle in threes. Handful of onion.
She commands her body The narrator never reveals her name, she remains
of God, in Leonin’s touching poem “Memory of Fire,” Three times. Oregano. Bay leaf. Parsley flakes.”
to lift the weight of its joy. anonymous, generic, like an “Every(wo)man” -- “not
in which Leonin remembers her mother and her a midwife...not a helper or doer of good deeds. [But] The abundance of the number three – “Everything
They lie down.
They cannot rise. mother’s faith: “On the days she prayed,/I watched [w]hen needed, rise[s] to the occasion...I do my work. must be done in threes” – evokes the holiness of
her hair spill around her face./God tumbled into I tend to my loved ones.” The Trinity, of the unity of the body, the mind,
She swallows a flame.
pieces at her knees/and she gathered him in her and the soul. It’s a symbol of wholeness. It is the
He invents the candle. What strikes me about this story is how believable
dress.” mystical concept of eternity – that we circle about the
She turns over and over in her sleep. and realistic Leonin creates these fully-developed
The shared meal theme is also visible when Eve feeds perimeter of the ring of the past, present, and future.
He invents the wheel. characters, particularly how each is (directly or
Adam the "fire" of passion ("The Repeated Garden"); indirectly) affected by the human condition – the way Indeed, “Soup and Bread” is a story of many like-
She gives off light.
The crowning begins. and when the narrator of the poem “Are You Too we choose to react to the multifarious episodes of life, minded themes: It’s a rally cry for peace and healing,
r e v i e w b y mi c h a e l p a r k e r

feeding the impoverished and the ill among us. It is moment early on in any poem where the reader can Cover art for Unraveling the Bed by Heriberto Mora.
about finding ways to help stop the flowing of blood, sense the poet owns the experience– they’ve walked
stop overreacting and turning “a divorce” into a tragic Unraveling the Bed includes a CD of Leonin
miles in its shoes. In her long poem “The Invention of
death scene “for the TV news.” It’s also about “[t] performing her works to original music by Carlos
Skin (A Conversation in Canvas),” Leonin masterfully
urn[ing] off the war.” Ochoa. The samples provided me were professionally
explains the skill of honesty of a poet’s work: “As if
engineered. Leonin’s poetry mingled very nicely with
In closing, there are three poignant points Leonin’s all these years, I’ve been thinking with only my face./
hip melodies. I caught myself dancing and swaying to
collection calls to mind: As if I’ve never broken off words and dived down,/
their captivating beats.
1) The skillful and honest poet is a powerful their shorn letters glowing between the hands.”
transforming force. When they earn our trust, we, Unraveling the Bed is published by Anhinga Press,
Regarding the skill of honesty in Leonin’s work,
in return, let them gather us quite naturally as an 2008.
I’m most impressed with the closing lines of her
autumn wind gathers fallen leaves, or hold us as the
horizons hold together the sky. And so often, we hand magnificent poem “When I Arrive,” in which Leonin Footnotes
over our heart to them because we trust they’ll care seems to speak to the exiled community. “I must have
1. Crossan, John Dominic. The Historical Jesus: The
for it. This is my reaction to Mia Leonin’s skill and a new face in this country,” she writes. “No longer
Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. Harper Collins,
honest subject matter. She earned in me the level of brunette, I’m dark/haired. No longer slender, I am
San Francisco. 1992.
trust I just explained. pine. Blood. I must remind myself. We/ are each
2) If a reader is to be enchanted, there must be filled with ten pints of blood. Each person given
elements of the extraordinary – poetic language that that amount of fluid to float the spirit on. We cannot
opens the new country; metaphor that continually drown.” (p.31)
awakens the mind, stretches you to learn; fresh
imagery that expands your view; and thoughtfullness Leonin’s honesty, her ability to think beyond her
that breathes a new spirit into our easily-worn and “face” and see her subject matter “glowing between
world-wearied souls. the hands” creates utterly inspiring language and
timeless poetry.
Teresa Longo, in her introduction to the collection of
essays “Pablo Neruda and the U.S. Culture Industry,” The famous Greek tragedian Euripides said of love:
perfectly describes my thoughts about Mia Leonin’s “love is all we have.” At the core of Mia Leonin’s
poetic skill and voice:
“Unraveling the Bed,” love isn’t just all we have; it’s
“The ’best poet,’ according to Pablo Neruda, is the the source of our humanity.
one who sustains us with our daily bread–with the
hopes and dreams of poetry. He sustains us in much Poetry can read like a great river. This collection, on
the same way that the ’majestic and overflowing’ sea the other hand, is more intimate and vital: it is like a
might sustain ’the meager communities which gather heartbeat. Here is a joyous collection! And here is an
hungrily on the shores.’” [Routledge, New York, 2002, impressive poet whose star just may be rising into a
page xix] more prominent space of sky.

3) The poet must be honest because there comes a *********************************************

march 2008 mipo | 39

Diego Quiros Superfluous Touch

(while riding
The Sun Wind the metro)
Along the old slums where That afternoon the wind
Before making contact,
the ruined shutters hang turned trees to bone,
the invisible lightning arc sizzles
a grouper exits a window cut my face with leaves.
swallows a whole yellowtail across inches.
Every butterfly became a sail
swims towards the next building.
And Jesus said, "Who touched me?"
Below the kill, a garland of algae and I became a prophet,
hangs on a barnacled street sign, predicting it would topple
When have you felt ether
a school of sardines gathers above a dream house built from clouds.
fall from you like reflex?
the walk-don’t walk pedestrian sign Butterflies have returned since.
at the corner of the four lane street.
Out of your skin
My face has healed.
The sun shines above the waters. and into the flesh and space of another
The wind replaced the space
It feels like summer. Year round like gravity
my body filled, and pushed
the mermaids lay eggs while
archeologists mermen dive kitchen my half of the sky along with yours.
bound at each end by a string
drawers seeking small tridents. with fish hooks politely forcing
a minimum distance
We could never agree on much
you and I. Even when mother
was ill, we argued over her health. crackling and white is
You said it was car sickness the baited touch of a woman’s skin.
I said it was years of smoking.
And after that, the stare of Eve
The doctor said it was heat stroke and after that, the sweet smell of apple
the politician said she was fine and after that, the fate of all my fathers.
the priest said it was incest
kept blabbering the rhetoric
of how long ago they climbed

the ark two by two, and fled higher. diego Quiros started writing poetry to express his imaginative and
distinctive understanding of the world, the self, the places, beliefs and
Even while we watched the news fantasies that make the fabric of a person.
we could not agree on how to keep He credits his poetry to conversations with a Muse he describes as “a
the polar ice caps frozen. naked woman with long dark green hair, green eyes, and light green
skin”. He claims she walks around his home in South Florida while he
Now it doesn’t matter.
writes, and drops subtle whispers here and there.

Even the rainbow has fled.

40 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 41

Kristina Martinez Fit of Cypress on the Dirt Hill

Apparition week we pan and brown

The Escape Artist Otherwise bag acres of relics: dainty saint’s feet

Known as Our Lady of Charity crush the snake, espadrilles charm the tarsi, glorious mysteries
darn the holes in our souls… if we’re walking
Jewel me in rough-cut ruby exotica, our tastes fun
ambulances that jump the tracks you’ve tied my ankles to. fervently Catholic.
Guilt meadows as the slitter
Beard me with Spanish moss, a sideshow of graying mermaid tresses. heaps of faithful march
injured and ill-dressed:
Museum my feet so they won’t grow. jumbled limbs assisting toothless feats.
Keepsake crutches snap and the voodoo of this
Quick as a Barbie shoe, I’m off limping carnival slumps; we pick through what’s left.
again—guilt is sweet Mice. We tweeze threads
as those sweet king cakes. nursing a long blessed line to the cataract of pure water flowing
opposite of desire. Sparrows. We scoop the eleven tear drops in the mist.
Escape’s on the tongue, no bribe wild enough Pilgrims sewn from a sloppy blanket-stitch unravel before their pet
to keep me from running. queen, Our Lady of the Plasticized Leg. The Hobble. Cripple.
Raise the cheesecloth to her gown.
Like a red and white tarpaulin, my thirst balloons. Sift for offerings, rusty thumb, eye, lung.
I zebra the sawtooth popcorn bag, I caterpillar and shirr Tear open a crinoline wound.
my turncoat raft off the pillowed lip of a hurricane… no more aviary, no more vanities. Umbrella her fleet of medals, floating
votives in a raspberry of vinegars.
Clasp chandelier tears, decanters, cruets of sherry With weak knees guiding the blade, with breasts on a plate—this is mythic
vinegar until my cross pianos ecstacy! Neck snared,
the splintering straits. Bury me in Florida. your delicates clipped by holy week’s
zipper of ashes.
Though my limbs rot,
my peg leg’ll propel me towards Sierra Maestra,
my ox-cart slippers treading Poinciana, kristina martinez has most recently been published in The Indiana
Review, The Iowa Review, and the Editor’s Choice issue of Tigertail, A
my loyalties open season. South Florida Poetry Annual.
Her family, the Lopez clan—Manuel, Maria, Martha, and Gina—
arrived in Florida from Cuba in October 1956. In February 2008, her
grandparents celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary.

42 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 43

mi c r o - r e v i e w poetry

This Is What Happened in Our Other Life

by Achy Obejas
Midsummer Night’s Press / 978-0979420825 / 32 pps / $6.95
Rita Maria Martinez
Reading Jane Eyre
I’ve always believed that great lesbian writers write it rhyme of “open” and “keen” are counterpointed by the
I opened a can of alphabet soup
all: poetry, fiction, essays, news stories. We have much slant rhyme between “open” and “marine.” Both echo
and searched for clues in letters
to tell the world, and it cannot be contained in a single astutely in the eye and the ear in conjunction with the
like life preservers in broth.
genre. Achy Obejas is another who proves this to be direct aural rhyme of “keen” and “marine.” Similarly,
I watched the evening news expecting
true. The publication of her first collection of poetry by in “Sleeping Apart,” an unregulated rhyme scheme
her body in a lake, her bleached
A Midsummer Night’s Press demonstrates Obejas’ skill emerges rhyming “time-zone” and “telephone” and
as a poet in conjunction with her award-winning work “dances” and “distance;” this subtle end rhyme serves
hair smeared across the water’s surface
as a novelist and short story writer. to unite the lovers unexpectedly and delightfully by the smooth as straw. I fingered the kitchen
poems conclusion. counter, decrypted each cookie crumb.
This Is What Happened in Our Other Life contains fifteen I checked the billiard table pockets,
poems; all are intimate lyrics about love. Obejas’ poems Obejas careful attention to the sounds of her work not behind the bathroom mirror,
are both narrative and musical. They often assert their only demonstrates her skill as a poet but also reminds between the lampshade’s pleats.
power with an initial line that draws the reader into the reader that the journey through these poems is one Later, I dreamt my left foot was bootless,
the poem with equal parts of directness and surprise. controlled by the hands of the craftswoman whose bruised by gravel when I read her
For instance, the poem “Legacies” opens the collection; skills transform words into art and the craftswoman signature in the quiet grace of a passing cloud.
it begins “The first time I was inside a woman,...” into an artisan.
Provocative, yes. Then, in the second line, Obejas turns
in a different direction and writes “I was confused.”
Each line of the poem provokes and releases tension,
Perhaps the greatest power of this collection is
its restraint. With only fifteen poems, each feels Jane Eyre’s Fashion Remedy
insisting that the reader proceed to the next one. Thus perfectly conceived and thoroughly complete. Spare
Jane’s grown weary of lingeried mannequins,
begins the journey for the reader. and compressed are accurate descriptors for all of
of women spritzing her like exterminators,
the poems, and the package itself responds to these
Obejas is a master of lineation, using it to elicit greater attributes. A Midsummer Night’s Press has produced
of Burdines, Macys, Saks blazing before her.
dramatic tension, to control the pacing of the poems in a small, perfect-bound book. For print fetishists, it is
Sweat pools beneath each plum-sized
the eyes and ears of readers, and to demonstrate her certain to be the object of great affection. It measures
prowess at creating perfectly conceived lines. Long about the size of a 4"x6" photograph, but it is not
after the collection has been read, reread, and savored, meant to be placed in an album; it is meant to be breast as she crosses a continent of asphalt
particular lines by Obejas linger: “All of your lovers treasured and to be fondled. Obejas is lucky to have to reach the rented Honda, its treacherous
come to you in April,” “You check your correspondence such care given to her first printed book of poetry and
rita maria martinez was born in Miami and lives in
and the world on the screen” and “the world breaks us A Midsummer Night’s Press is likewise lucky to have seat belt that digs into her shoulder like a cheap bra.
Ft. Lauderdale with husband Todd Puccio; the two met
all.” She packages knowledge and revelation into her Obejas’ collection for the first installment of their Body She sits in silence waiting for the traffic light’s at an open-mike night at Saint Gregory Catholic Church
poems in ways that are both dramatic and memorable. Language series. where Martinez read a poem. She tutors students at Nova
transformation from heat wave to go-go Southeastern University.
Obejas’ skill as a poet is not limited to lineation, ————————— when Eddie’s crumpled, razor-burned face Rita Maria’s poetry has appeared in Gulf Stream,
however. Her attention to the sonic qualities of the Ploughshares, Gargoyle, Diagram, and Tigertail: A South
language are striking in this collection. Internal rhyme Julie R. Enszer is a poet and writer based in University Florida Poetry Anthology. It is also featured in the eighth
Park, MD. You can read more of her work at appears in the rear view mirror, his scarred forehead edition of Stephen Minot’s Three Genres: The Writing of
certainly figures into her work, as does assonance and hot as the steering wheel against her fingertips. Fiction/Literary Nonfiction, Poetry, and Drama (Prentice
consonance, the usual tools of the free-verse, lyric poet.
Hall) and in Burnt Sugar, Caña Quemada: Contemporary
Cuban Poetry in English and Spanish (Simon & Schuster).
In Obejas’ hands, however, these tools are used with She parts her lips, ready to stitch soothing syllables
Martinez’s first chapbook, Jane-in-the-Box, is forthcoming
care, and the results of her applied labors are fresh and across the steaming cicatrix, sew secrets
from March Street Press later this year.
new. In “Dancing in Paradise,” Obejas writes of the
body’s need to preserve memory, “we keep our eyes into his skin, a grocery list of things she wishes
open,/ears keen, for marine smells[.]” The direct visual to forget: the gold digger got suckered
p o e t r y : r it a m a r i a m a r tin e z

of bleeding hearts from the earth’s damp mouth.

into a sour deal, landed a Loch Ness monster,
The man who lusts after your mind—only—who finagled you
a loony jezebel, a homicidal hoochie, hysterical
into giving up German to learn Hindustani
juju woman, schitzo, succubus, suicidal skank
so the two of you can get hitched, jet to India, and save the world,
to have and to hold, to love and to honor,
stands before you stiff as a ceramic groom for the top tier
to cherish and obey la sucía hidden like the mole
of your wedding cake. The cassock drapes across his legs
on his inner thigh, like mothballs beneath the bed,
like a bell-shaped flower. You could bury your face in the quiet
like the leftover plate of lasagna forgotten in the freezer.
If she takes him back, he’ll beg for forgiveness, of each fold, each delicate crease unfurling at the sound of your voice,
at the slightest graze of a curious fingertip, but he expects
he’ll say he loves her, he’ll take liberties,
call her Janet or Janey, though she hates it, you to register for Whitecliff or Wedgewood ASAP,
for the cobalt crystal water jug, goblets and sherry glasses,
he’ll shower her with garter belts from
Victoria’s Secret as if sprinkling croutons matching champagne flutes. He wants you to tie the knot
in a Princess Di knock-off, the silk ivory crepe evening dress
across salad, he’ll decorate her like a Christmas tree,
insist she wear the silver arm cuff, those topaz and jacket auctioned at Christie’s, or a satin floral brocade
with a scoop neck and cathedral length skirt—but you can’t even blink
earrings that dangle from her lobes like fishing lures.
When he gets bored he’ll scrunch her in his hands or move, like when Bertha snuck into your room and lurked
over your four-post bed and you thought she’d slit
like a candy bar wrapper, toss her in his fishbowl.
It’s good I’m safe, she thinks, as she removes your throat with her glittery ghetto nails. Instead, the klepto
lifted your Vera Wang veil, a gift from Eddie. You were afraid
her lips from the mirror, grabs her bottle of Evian
from the car’s cup holder and chugs. of winding up like her brother, Mason, his chest unzipped,

It’s good you’re in there and I’m out here, she tells Eddie, on the bare mattress like a yellow-tailed snapper waiting
as she licks her lips and the light blinks green. to be gutted. You were afraid of falling asleep, of nightmares—
bloody sponges floating in basins, Bertha opening her mouth to flash
Saint John Rivers Pops the a sharp fang until you woke up burdened, limbs to the mattress

Question on Jane Eyre like a circus elephant manacled to the ground.

You’ve waited for a proposal since playing house If it were up to Miss Loony Tunes she’d rip that row of shiny buttons
and roaming Aunt Reed’s herb garden in your nightgown, right off JR’s cassock, sink her claws into his tender torso
wearing a white pillowcase for a veil as you plucked like barbs of stinging nettle, like hooked bristles along the edge of the cutgrass,
sweet peas, a collar of eucalyptus leaves, a sprig he’d learn the difference between yes and no, between I do and I don’t.

46 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 47


Dulce Menendez How to Paint a Cuban Dream

Sit your mother down We agree and move on to orange.
Miami and offer her a glass of scotch.
Contrary to popular belief
Smaller strokes are placed on cheeks.
It is sunny in Florida right now.
I grew up in a cult. And there I lived. we drink scotch. Not rum. I am not there.
In that city among my cult We prefer to have what we I am here in this basement with
We were the minority. until one day I had to leave. can't have. Let the vacationers my mother, the ghost and this face
Then the whole city became the cult. have our rum. Let Russia I do not recognize.
And so it was written. have our sandy beaches.
Other cults tried to take over the city. Let Mao Tse-Tung have our tobacco. This face I do not recognize
They dressed in orange and red, I settled in the prairie. until I subconsciously paint
shaved their heads, Where the seasons changed. Take out the green. palm tree branches for her hair.
sang songs at the airport. Where there was no shore to escape to. There is always green Her eyes are mameys.
Their tambourines jingling in the air No shore to wait for others to arrive. like the fields of sugar cane. Her lips are papayas.
between the baggage claim and the tourists. I never run of out green.
And here my offspring I don't remember
Unlike them, will grow among the corn stalks. Green is the base of everything. what brought me here.
my cult was submissive. Quiet and American Including this face with eyes closed.
We tried not to stick out. and I will never look back. She does not speak my language. My mother says
She is high. Her eyes are closed. I sat on the seat next
Although most of the outsiders Green keeps refilling itself. to her on the TWA plane.
dulce (Didi) menendez was born in 1960, weighing in at 9lbs, 11oz. Her birth
thought we were loud and boisterous, It is endless like cocaine. My sister, on my father's lap.
almost caused the death of her mother Salome. Salome was stronger than the
we were quiet between ourselves. doctors thought, and one year later Dulce’s sister, Ivonne, arrived. Salome
There was unification in our cause. had not picked out the name of Ivonne for her second daughter. The name My mother starts to remember
A silent understanding of what Ivonne (Ivan) was chosen by Pepe (Salome’s brother-in-law), who had to put in things I wish to forget.
paperwork to claim his brother Pablo, sister-in-law and two nieces still in Cuba.
had to be done. The memory of my father
Having left one year earlier at age 19 with his mother (Etelvina) and younger
brother Galo (age 13), Pepe thought it safe to use a name that may be for a boy loosens her tongue.
And so, we set out or a girl. Salome, Dulce, Ivonne and Pablo finally left the island on June 15, I do not want to tell her
to infiltrate the universities. 1962. Dulce was one month short of turning two, and Ivonne was 9 months old. about the ghost in the corner.
The family settled in Miami, but later Salome left with her two daughters to
We earned the degrees High Point, North Carolina. They lived there for a short time and went back to
I tell him to keep.
in the language of the locals. Miami only to leave again a year later for Los Angeles, where Dulce and Ivonne
We built houses, temples, attended Santa Monica Elementary. Salome, Dulce and Ivonne left California She says that her husband died.
in 1969 for Miami, and they stayed there for the next six years when Salome
churches, schools. I remind her that she was already
divorced Pablo. In 1975, the three returned to California where Dulce and
Ivonne attended Hollywood High School (class of ’78 and ’79). divorced.
We renamed the streets Since then, marriages, children, divorces and the death of Pablo Menendez have
Green is brushed on in
to the names of the executed. taken place. wide strokes with abandonment.
We married and procreated Dulce Menendez is happily single and the proud parent of four children. Besides
and taught our offspring holding a full-time job and being a parent, Didi publishes this magazine, writes an She says it does not matter.
occasional poem and submerges all her extra energies I tell her he tried to kill us.
the language of the cult.
into her oil paintings. This is the first time she has
dedicated an issue of MiPOesias Magazine solely to her
She is shocked as if she was never there.
Some of us infiltrated own people. Then he was crazy she says.
New Jersey and Chicago. Yes he was.
Our community there was not Photo: Ivonne celebrates her first birthday
as vivacious as the city we took over. in Miami, Florida, October 12, 1962.
Etelvina is standing behind the girls. Photo: Dulce and Ivonne at a cousin's wedding. Tio Galo and his daughter Jennifer in the background.

Caridad McCormick Erosion for Zelda

Arby’s got you talking.
A certain slim-hipped

Quinceñera Something about that ten-gallon hat

inspired courage and you glowed
Cuban boy
loved to wrap
My Papi was too cheap in Hialeah, my favorite of all like the cocuyos we caught in glass jars his tongue
and my Mami too weak the quince spots, where that summer you were ten and sure Papi around my brain,
to celebrate my quinces third-generation cousins was right about everything, including me, spew obscenities
in the grand fashion gathered for generic booze, in my ear,
of my friends dressed to the same shabby nines, black sheep of the family. I shoveled words I relished
who enjoyed parents whooping it up as they waited fries down my throat like a gravedigger. more than sex,
willing to mortgage the house for the pink scallop shell to open You unearthed confessions. Meteors his Spanish
to peddle their pochungitas drawbridge slow, that streaked past your lips. Explosions: Ricky Ricardo smooth
into the right social circles, reveal a perky pearl, I may not graduate; we never use condoms; Ay, Mami que rica estas,
but I didn’t mind; rouged and posed on velvet, he grabs, but almost never hits. the whole thing so wrong
I had been to The Biltmore, compulsory crinolines, it just made me wetter.
where the super rich organza fanned out beneath Geese do it too, tuck their heads
threw their soirees, a crunchy taffeta gown, beneath a pall of fluff to keep I wasn’t la niña bonita
had seen a particular trumpeting the arrival from noticing danger: Styrofoam cups my parents
Cuban-American Princess descend of another available Cubanita, fooling little ones into strangled bites; silent wanted me to be,
on a zirconium-studded corseted assets swim of alligators proving lethal hands tangled
quarter-moon waiting to be plucked beneath the green guise of indifference. in suds and Brillo,
bringing forth a gasp by any one the kind who waited.
as the birthday girl smiled of the red-palmed boys On the way home, I spun sentences into webs
and tipped back, lining the walls. sticky with logic, You’re too young, I counted the minutes
cracked her head He’s no good for you. You swept them away for lover boy
on Italian marble, with bristles long practiced at the art of clean-up to stroke me down
and once, and said, We have to go back, I forgot my purse. the long length
at the Big Five Club, I rolled my eyes and turned around. of a coiled
where underwater ballerinas telephone cord
could be had for an extra 300 bucks, How could I have missed it? stretched taut
I saw a water nymph slam back The universe saying, Do it again, into the laundry room,
three shots of tequila pulling us into the same parking spot, where I became
before show time, caridad mccormick was born in Los Angeles in 1969 to Cuban parents through the same double doors, back to a moment the girl
who never let her forget that although she was a first generation redolent with grease and regret. A miracle, who let herself
the party busted up by el rescue American, she was, first and foremost, una niña Cubana.
who came to resuscitate her like your purse, still there, intact. be pushed
At nine, she moved to Miami and stopped wanting to be blonde and blue-
back into the horror eyed. She began to write about her experiences with the subject she knew
into the ladies room
of a shrieking fifteen-year-old, best: Cubanita 101. I threw stones. I could have saved them, at Woolworth’s,
a thousand layers of sodden Caridad’s poetry has appeared in The Seattle Review, Slipstream, CALYX, planted a rock garden, the one who said nothing
lavender Spillway, The Pedestal, Susan B. and Me: An International Collection of sentries to guard against erosion.
Writing and Tigertail: A South Florida Poetry Annual, IV. In 2006 she was a We could be there now, laid flat on a bench in the Kiwanis dugout,
pooling at her feet, finalist for the Rita Dove Poetry Award, and in 2007, she was the recipient
the kind of chiffon I’d never seen of a Florida Artist Fellowship. She teaches English for Dade County
weeds blooming into flowers, scant kisses giving way
at Angelita’s Salon De Quinces Public Schools and is a professor of English at Miami Dade College. talking about nothing, nothing at all. to Kleenex
that cleaned me right up
for the quiet ride home.
50 | mipo march 2008

Richard Blanco ‘til you go to Nugget’s on St. Ann. So we go there, and there’s nothing
fancy: a splintered bass, a piano aching for varnish, and drums lost
New Orleans Sestina Against Order behind a dust-filled spotlight beamed on a woman dressed in forget-
me-not colors, her voice a blend of cider, saffron, clove, and menthe
We’re driving 900 miles, 23 counties in 17 hours, for a reason. liquoring up our ears, her face like a cameo masking the disorder
Perhaps it’s our need to feel like nothing through the nothing of living a life that’s felt every second—maybe that’s the reason
of pasture land as flat as the tarmac on the highway, to be lost
like an x through the x’s of Loxley and Biloxi, or simply to forget, everyone always says there’s nothing like N’awlins, you’ll never forget it:—
like so many exit-number towns that have forgotten the meaning to abandon order for the sake of a song, and find meaning
of their Indian names. At the Shoney’s near Tampa we order in a voice, even if it keeps sing’n: ain’t no reas’n…ain’t no reas’n…
lunch, instead of breakfast. The waitress smirks: there ain’t no order
I can’t handle, and in my metropolis mind I just can’t find a reason
why she hasn’t tossed her name plate, left this place with nothing
to offer her. The way we left everything behind us, to be as lost
and incidental as last night, down I-70 doing 80 and forgetting
under the stars hitting the windshield without those meanings
Even If the Sun Explodes for N.M.
The mile markers countdown [ 55 | 54 | 53 ] while Nikki and I sail in her Plymouth Fury,
we usually assign to them—hope|dream|awe—against the mean firing 8-cylinders over a 30-foot swath of pavement, cutting through saltwater marshes
of our averaged lives and days that feel like the flashing orders and clutches of mangrove islands, on our way to Key West for New Year’s eve this
year, again [ 47 | 46 | 45 ]. We cross from key to key, over the same bridges necklacing
on the billboards—sleep here|eat this|exit now—without reason. the same islands together, under the same braille of stars, past the road sign near Bahia
Perhaps it’s that nothingness driving us to believe in somethingness, Honda: key deer habitat: 49 deer remaining. Last year there were 90, Nikki
and that’s why we’re on the road, searching out what we’ve lost reminds me, and tells me her story again, as if they were already extinct: how she
by losing ourselves, and remembering ourselves by forgetting remembers them at summer camp standing no taller than a car tire, how precious they
were, how she fed them cabbage, how they ate out of her hands, how she was ordered
who we are, concerned only with tuning-in a station to forget to clang pots and scare them away so they’d keep wild and keep surviving. We keep
the miles left to go with Elvis preachers claiming we’re meant speeding through conversations, changing topics every mile [ 44 | 43 | 42 ] on chit-chat
for love and the Kingdom of Heaven long as we follow Jesus’ orders. about BMWs, the Black Forest, chocolate [ 41 | 40 | 39 ] on her gourmet mom’s coq-a-
And even though I don’t believe, I begin conjuring up reasons vin, my mother’s Cuban ajiaco stew [ 38 | 37 | 36 ] on children, China, nuclear war, and
for my sins, as if I should forgive myself for wanting nothing then: the inevitable, great-road-trip-cosmic-hypo-philosophical question about the aging
more than this easy ride on a holiday weekend. So we’re lost sun eventually turning into a red giant and engulfing the earth. We don’t answer it by
slipping in a CD, turning the volume all the way up, knowing all we can do is drive and
lambs for a while in The Big Easy without a map, but we don’t lose survive, like everything out here: the last 49 key deer nibbling berries on either side
a minute of the Bourbon St. circus of sax and tap, before getting of US-1, the snarls of mangrove roots clinging to each other in the sand, and the two
Hurricanes and voodoo dolls, and donning beads at a meal meant of us singing our way south through the darkness again, to watch the plaster conch at
for a Cajun king: crawfish gumbo and catfish, followed by an order Sloppy Joe’s countdown [ 10 | 9 | 8 ] to make cheap champagne toasts in plastic cups, and
of beigné at Café Du Monde on the Miss, thinking: is this the reason embrace each other amid the crowd on Duvall Street, one more time, one more year, even
we came…is this it? When our waiter says: you haven’t heard nothing if the sun explodes.

52 | mipo march 2008 march 2008 mipo | 53

poetry: richard blanco

Looking for The Gulf Motel, Marco Island, Florida A Thoroughly Incomplete
There should be nothing here I don’t remember My brother and I should still be playing Parcheesi Autobiography
and my father should still be alive, slow dancing
with my mother on the sliding-glass balcony I do not know if my great-grandfather’s eyes
The Gulf Motel with the mermaid lampposts
were green or brown or blue, or what he saw
and ships’ wheels in the lobby should still be of the Gulf Motel. No music, only the waves
of his life in the cold rivers of Austurias.
rising out of the sand like a cake decoration. keeping time, a song only their minds can hear
And though my blood has always imagined him
My brother and I should still be pretending ten-thousand nights back to their life in Cuba.
as a shepherd or a farm hand in a gray wool vest
we don’t know our parents, embarrassing us My mother’s face should still be resting against with a beret lowered to his brow, I cannot tell you
as they roll the luggage cart past the front desk his bare chest like the moon resting on the sea, why he left, if he cried watching the fog retreat
piled with our scuffed suitcases, two-dozen the stars should still be turning around them. through the hills of his village into the heavens
loaves of Cuban bread, brown bags bulging for the last time from the window of a train
with enough mangos to last the entire week, There should be nothing here I don’t remember moving south through twilight toward Sevilla.
a scoured pressure cooker, our espresso pot, Was it for a woman he knew and I would know
and a pork roast, the car still reeking of garlic. My brother should still be thirteen, sneaking decades later as my great grandmother, a ghost
All because we can’t afford to eat out, not even rum in the bathroom, sculpting naked women in a brittle photograph, dressed in Spanish lace
on a vacation only two hours from our home in the sand. I should still be eight years old, fanning herself in a room full of mahogany
in Miami, but far enough away to be thrilled still dazzled by seashells, by how many seconds and sepia roses still breathing whispers
by the whiter sands on the west side of Florida, I can hold my breath underwater. But I’m not, of family secrets in a time I will never hear.
where for the first time I should still be watching I am thirty-eight, driving down Collier Avenue, Would you believe they loved each other, if
the sun setting, instead of rising, over the ocean. looking for the Gulf Motel, for everything I told you what they saw in each other’s eyes
that should still be, but isn’t. I want to blame every morning? Was it the war or love or both
There should be nothing here I don’t remember the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach that urged them across the sea on a journey
and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away that may have also begun with tears and ended
My mother should still be in the kitchenette with their tacky McMansions and yachts, I want in a harbor wreathed with palms and cane fields
of the Gulf Motel, her daisy sandals from K-Mart to turn the golf courses back into mangroves, quietly turning the Cuban sun into sugar.
What if they had gone to Johannesburg or Rio
squeaking over the linoleum tiles; she should still be I want to find the Gulf Motel exactly as it was,
instead, or never left Sevilla at all? What
gorgeous in her teal swimsuit and amber earrings pretend, for a moment, nothing I’ve lost is lost.
would be my grandfather’s name, how tall
stirring a pot of arroz-con-pollo, adding sprinkles
would my father be? What would be the color
of onion powder and dollops of tomato sauce. of my eyes, and how differently would I see
My father should still be in a terrycloth jacket the story I want you to believe—the story richard blanco was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain,
smoking and clinking a glass of amber whisky I want to believe myself—that I have willed
and imported to the US—meaning his mother, seven months

in the sunset at the Gulf Motel, watching us

pregnant, and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cuba
every detail of this life I am living, and not to Madrid where he was born. The family emigrated once more
dive into the pool, the two boys he’ll never see that I’m more like a winged seed or a drop of rain and settled in Miami.
grow up into men that will be proud of him. driven by the past and falling by chance here His first book, City of a Hundred Fires, received the Agnes
and not there, wherever there may have been: Starrett Poetry Prize (1998). Directions to The Beach of the

There should be nothing here I don’t remember

Dead (University of Arizona Press, 2005) won the 2006 PEN
What other seas would I’ve cast thoughts, / American Beyond Margins Award. Blanco’s poems have
how many other cities would I’ve drowned in, appeared in Ploughs hares, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly,
what countries would I have lost or betrayed, National Public Radio, and more. A former Assistant Professor,
what languages would I speak or not speak, has taught at Georgetown, American University, and
Connecticut State University. Currently, he is a board member
how many other names would be my name, and Vice-President of The Macondo Foundation.
what would I not remember or never be told,
of the story I’d like to tell, but cannot tell you.
54 | mipo march 2008

The New Salsation!

available at
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artwork by i.m
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