from here, it may feel as if you are merely husk
never taught to cry, laments swim within
forensics on the history of bones reveal
slouched skeletons daisy chained at the elbows
dynasty of sleepers, your inheritance
dead to a god that once received your penance
you hoped that guilt riddled your father’s sleep
but it seems the holes sieved his soul in process
tabula rasa was your ambition
he left too soon, you wondered if he knew he would
but believe me, it is coming
be still, listen closely, you will hear your dna hum
I combined the prompts to tell a story, a very personal story, at that. I have had and continue to have difficulty coping with the sudden death of my father while in my 20’s. We had a strained relationship for most of my life and a time came where I wanted a different relationship with him. Finally, one of father and son and not strangers. The last time we spoke was a Monday and planned to meet for lunch to talk and (re)learn each other. That was supposed to be on the Friday of that same week. The lunch never occurred. He passed away that Tuesday and was not discovered until Thursday. He was in his apartment. He had become a regimented man in the time we were away from each other. His neighbors could literally set their clocks to his comings and goings and when his next door neighbor, who he was close with did not hear enter nor leave for two days straight, she became concerned, and with good reason.
My poem is a synopsis of the feelings from beginning to end, from the perspective of my older self to my younger self. Although I haven’t fully made peace with his departure, I now have enough experience with it to be of help to others dealing with the same thing. I also know he is in me. I am him and so he is in me. I hear him when I speak and feel him when I walk. I just hope and pray to be a better version of him for my own family.
Do any of you have things you haven’t made peace with? If you once did and were able to finally be delivered from it, how did you go about it? If you have been fortunate enough to not have had to deal with this part of life, can you imagine what it would be like?
Excerpts From Empire of Dreams
by Giannina Braschi
Now I laugh at everything and not for the irony. Even though my eyes are closing. And I’m not asleep. How many more minutes do I have left. Is it true that they’ll shoot me soon. And why not now. I’m not afraid of guns. Let them pull the trigger. Let them kill me. I told you they could pull the trigger. Why don’t they just pull the trigger and finish me off. Answer me. Why don’t they just pull it. We’re not immortals and a shot in the temple would end it all. What’s stopping them from pulling it. Why is it so hard now that I’m so far away from my base and it would be so easy to pull that trigger. What’s the big deal. Why don’t they just finish pulling it. Why. Could it be that it’s too difficult to point at me with a pistol. And become murderers. If they’re already that. Is it their guilty conscience. Or is it the little worm. And nothing else. No shit. Cowardice. And nothing else. Cowardice. And all the rest. Pantomimes!
I forgot to tell you something really important. I’m forgetful. And sometimes I’m lost. But I still have my eyes. And I still have my legs. And I don’t know what to do with so many eyes and so many legs. It is a never-ending tale. The concert ends. And the poem begins. Food runs out. And I’m still hungry. I just got up. And I’m still sleepy. And when I return I wish to be where I was. We already know this stuff. It’s a public affair. That’s why I still feel like thinking. And dreaming. And laughing. And crying. I am always back again and beginning anew. I told you before, I am an egg. And now that I am shaking I know everything is different. And I don’t want to return. Now that I’m about to come to the climax. Now that I’m made of mere tensions and mere tendons and pure dreams and pure color movies. Go ahead. Go ahead. The red light turns yellow and green. And from winters you subtract autumn and you add spring. And we are back in summer. It’s weird. I swear, everything seems so strange. And the weirdest part is that everything seems so weird to me. What do I know. That we are lightning. That we are only flashes of lightning. That later everything will be one more crayon in the infinite frame of lightning, painted and finished.
I am the shepherd of water. The shepherd-boy of dawn. I have a golden beetle. And I have a snail. Oh woe, woe’s me! Music has invaded my beaches. Flooded my banks. Surrounded all my infinities with water. My sheep have run off. Have fled from the flock. Have left the earthquake of my home. And have left me alone. Have left me painted in the landscape of memories. But I have returned to my soul. Barefoot and hidden. Like an elf I have returned. Like an imp I have returned. Running. Fleeing. From the lie of love and memory. In the vineyard. In the wine cellar of the river. In the bottle of wine. Devouring nuts and collecting cards and stamps and albums. And dreaming. And remembering. And gathering seeds. And crossing forts and frontiers. Besieging time, which is Shepherd and Shepherd and Shepherd. And Melancholy. Melancholy. Melancholy. And memories are. Still. Still. Still. I was shipwrecked. But I saved myself. And I sang epigrams and eclogues and odes and sonnets. And I’m still singing to sirens. And hearing their song. And writing the symphony of water. Of earthquake. Of storm. Of peace. My hell. My shepherd. My torture. My treasure. My sun. My sun. My do-re-mi. And my fa. And my-soul. And my love.
Giannina Braschi (born February 5, 1953) is a Puerto Rican writer. She is credited with writing the first Spanglishnovel Yo-Yo Boing! (1998), the post-modern poetry trilogy Empire of Dreams (Yale, 1994) and the philosophical fictionUnited States of Banana (AmazonCrossing, 2011), which chronicles the Latin American immigrants‘ experiences in the United States. “For decades, Dominican and Puerto Rican authors have carried out a linguistic revolution”, noted The Boston Globe, “and Giannina Braschi, especially in her novel YO-YO BOING!, testify to it”. She is considered an influential and revolutionary voice in contemporary Latin American literature. Her work has been described as a “synergetic fusion that marks in a determinant fashion the lived experiences of U.S. Hispanics.” Written in English, Spanglish, and Spanish, Braschi’s work seeks to capture the cultural experience of the 50 million Hispanics in the United States and also seeks to explore the three political options of Puerto Rico: Nation, Colony or Statehood. On the subject of the Island’s lack of sovereignty, Braschi stated, “Liberty is not an option — it is a human right.”
In the 1970s, Giannina Braschi was a student of literature in Madrid, Rome, Paris and London, before she settled inNew York City. She obtained a PhD in Hispanic Literatures (State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1980) and has taught at Rutgers University, City University of New York, and Colgate University, where she served as a Distinguished Chair of Creative Writing (1997). She was a foreign correspondent for Grazie magazine (2001–2002).
In the 1980s, Giannina Braschi burst onto the downtown Nuyorican poetry scene with spoken word performances of rhythmic intensity, humorous gusto, and anti-imperialistic politics. Her prose poems were written, recited, and published entirely in Spanish during this period. Her first collection of Spanish prose poetry, Asalto al tiempo, debuted in Barcelona in 1980 and was followed by La Comedia profana in 1985 and El imperio de los sueños in 1988. New York is the site and subject of much of her work. In a climatic episode of “Pastoral or the Inquisition of Memories”, shepherds invade 5th Avenue on the Puerto Rican Day Parade and take over the City of New York; the shepherds ring the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and seize the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
In 2011, Giannina Braschi debuted “United States of Banana,” her first work written entirely in English; it is a postmodern dramatic novel about the powers of the world shifting after September 11. The work is a poetic critique of 21st century capitalism and corporate censorship. In 2012, “The Economist cited “United States of Banana” among the best sources for bold statements on the economy: “Banks are the temples of America. This is a holy war. Our economy is our religion“.“United States of Banana,” takes as a springboard the collapse of the World Trade Center, the event which displaced her from the Battery Park neighborhood that became known as the Ground Zero vicinity. Braschi writes about the death of the businessman, the end of democracy, and the delusion that all men are created equal. “Revolutionary in subject and form, “United States of Banana” is a beautifully written declaration of personal independence,” declared the late publisherBarney Rosset former owner of Grove Press of “Evergreen Review.” The main characters are Zarathustra, Segismundo, Hamlet, Giannina and the Statue of Liberty; cameos are made by Latin American left wing leaders Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez, Cristina Kirchner, and Evo Morales. Read more here and here.