By Sandra M. Castillo
“All accounts of the past are made up of possibilities.”
for Larry Villanueva
you were a story of ancestors,
Barrios, Donate, Gallata, Villanueva,
family names strung and pearled in the Caribbean
by blood and memory,
nostalgia and calamity
en Artemisa, a small town in my mother’s childhood,
a woman in December of 1967,
your Tía Marta, a hospital room en la Covadonga,
rows and rows of children, my sisters,
unexpectedly two, your cousins,
whose clothes Mae and Mitzy wore
into history and exile.
En el exilo, La Cuba del Norte,
ten years after the summer of El Mariel,
you were my map of Cuba,
un espejo, un reflejo,
a tisa-blue knot of possibility.
Mi esquina Habanera,
a street en la arquitectura del pasado,
a superficial distance in the patina of memory,
a me I had never really known,
a language I had learned not to think in.
Later, you were a face on T.V.
en Guadalupe, María Elena,
my mother’s telenovelas en el canal 23,
an actor, a director, a sculptor, abstract angst with a face
history and coincidence had given me.
So when you become fingerprints and words,
a noun, a verb, a snapshot in motion,
I am no longer alone with my ghosts,
las sombras de el pasado, inventing truth,
reclaiming language, my old self.
I am me, unadorned by speech,
English or translation;
I am an I, simple, exposed,
this afternoon in our lives,
a conversation about the circle
of coincidence and persuasion,
a photograph of an idea we once were,
and you are familiar,
we breathe in Spanish,
move through blank spaces like incantations,
waiting for words to fill a moment
(often ninety miles long)
with etymology, jargon, ghostwords,
shadows and nostalgia,
and become Harina de Castilla, Larry,
re-shaped, translated, improvised, sculpted
The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.
Sandra M. Castillo, “Harina de Castilla” from My Father Sings, to My Embarrassment. Copyright © 2002 by Sandra M. Castillo. Reprinted by permission of White Pine Press.
Source: My Father Sings to My Embarrassment (White Pine Press, 2002)
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