This week’s poem by Juan Felipe Herrera (recently appointed as the first Chicana/o U.S. Poet Laureate) caught me towards the end the first time I read it. The way the details come together. The turn and return at the end to the image of something dark around the neck. Each reading of it since that first helps me appreciate the lyrical nerve at work.
The words about the grandmother had me in my memories of my own grandmother who passed when I was nineteen. I’ve been in a similar space as the poem describes, “inventing her memory.” For me, “black sparkles” is ink, each word more of the “leash” the poet writes of.
Cimabue, Goya, Beginnings – Juan Felipe Herrera
I carry a dark necklace around my neck.
It’s painted on.
No one has taken notice.
They think it’s an outline or an odd shadow.
No one has stared longer than a few seconds.
I’ll tell you.
I didn’t know where to put all the fragments of the novel
that family never finished. It had such sweet beginnings,
but it grew umber with a one-eyed madonna hovering
over the lampshade.
So many years, I whispered to her
come to me,
listen to me
She would appear to me with gold-leaf
around her braids and seven daggers erect over the heart;
perhaps the last desire; the first real words
escaping from my grandmother’s grave, trying to touch
my hair as I sat at seventeen, writing,
inventing her memory.
Her voice was so loving,
now, all that remains is this broken leash
of black sparkles.
I’d also like to announce that my full-length microfiction collection Everything We Think We Hear has just been accepted for publication by Floricanto Press!!!
This manuscript has gone through several incarnations since 2012. The move towards microfiction happened in the last year. Something conceptually clicked about these pieces as I was working with FutureCycle Press on the finishing touches of my recent chapbook Reasons (not) to Dance. FutureCycle’s belief in one project breathed life into another.
I’ll be sharing more updates on the project as the book comes together.