WE GATHERED * POR COSTUMBRE

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WE                                                  POR

GATHERED                                  COSTUMBRE

by Linda Rodriguez Guglielmoni

 

“We also die,” says Ñaña, “we also hurt,”

pinching the honey-brown skin on her forearm…

The Other Side/El otro lado, Chapters V and VII,  Julia Alvarez

to see                                                       skins café con leche, de azabache y nácar

to kiss                                                      cheeks thin, pale como papel de arroz

 

faded                                                        made so tough by the

Jersey –                                                 Manhattan commute

 

or tanned                                               turned thick by the endless hammering light

the Sea’s                                                salt seeping into every tear, frown and smile

 

to count                                                  tantas canas grises

to wonder                                              at the new faces

 

framed by manes                                 thick, curly and untamed

black and brown                                   touched by sparks of gold

 

like this moment                                  in time and our daily heat and sweat

turning rose petals                               white – pink to cobre marchito to dust

 

to kneel                                                    before el cura con su acento

to listen                                                    how la noche sin fin begins

 

how each of us                                       writes a letter to explain

long for some                                         pero para algunos muy corta

 

like for Mari’s daughter                          su corazón apuñalado por una bala

in a mother’s body now                          forever a sad, longing esperanza

like for Esmeralda                                   daughter and sister

wife for 5 decades                                   mother of 3 women

kind grandmother                                  to an only child

great-grandmother                                to a boy and girl

called by her daughter                          una mujer simple

who in 91 yrs achieved                          no great feats

to walk                                                     on morning grass trying not to slip

to feel                                                       big black ants bite our naked toes

 

we gathered that day                             brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins

la muchacha dominicana                      who long had taken care of her

 

the man who’d worked                          at my grandfather’s food mercado

those who remembered                        those to whom I was a stranger

 

to perceive                                             across the chain-link the bamboo’s song

to witness                                              the coffin lowered —adjusted— lowered

 

by busy men                                        in green rubber boots and drenched t-shirts

as we consent                                      to our memories dropped into a walled grave

 

sealed swiftly                                        by practice and a loud yellow tractor

and the island’s                                     ochre-purple-red mud in heavy loads

building a mound                                 which wreaths make discreet

forcing us quickly                                 to kiss, scatter and drive away

 

leaving behind                                      familia

to be walked on                                    safely

 

by those who                                        por costumbre visit

on the 2nd day                                       of the 11th month

 

 

Published in: The Caribbean Writer 20th Anniversary Issue, Research  Publications Center, U of the Virgin Islands, 20 (2006):33-34.

 

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