“Because We Come from Everything: Poetry & Migration” is the first public offering of the newly formed Poetry Coalition—twenty-two organizations dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and communities, as well as the important contributions poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.
During the month of March, coalition members CantoMundo and Letras Latinas are partnering to present guest posts by CM fellows at Letras Latinas Blog that will include essays, creative non-fiction, micro reviews and dialogues between writers. This year’s theme borrows a line from U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s poem, “Borderbus.” Please return to this space and enjoy all the pieces in the series, and leave comments to participate in the dialogue.
Barbara Curiel, CantoMundo
Francisco Aragón, Letras Latinas
Mico-review: Emmy Pérez, With the River on Our Face, University of Arizona Press, 2016
by Sheryl Luna
Emmy Pérez’s poem “El Paso ~ El Valle” migrates from El Paso in West Texas through New York and Navajo country through Afghanistan and Iraq to Hargill in South Texas. She writes,
Every city is El Paso and every paso, a city where we smile and greet
kind neighbors who raise roosters and water tomato plants
as someone o.d.’s near the canal behind our homes and I never saw
his face because I did not look enough beyond obvious beauty
A list of images also pays homage to El Paso’s poverty and beauty: refineries, bridges, the stench of shared sewage and peach trees.
The speaker also celebrates her own ancestry there.
Where my grandmother, exiled from her father’s judgment, birthed ten
children. Ysleta, from where my mother was born to her Mexicana mother
and tejano father
She also expresses her own silence, her own pain and lessons in the same city and other places:
. . . Where I allow myself silence, where
your humility is beautiful and brings pain. All the faces of humility in a city.
Where I learned to love but not enough. Where I learned, at the end, that love
is not fearing, El Paso, una herida abierta, como El Valle, como Navajo
country. Santa Ana, L.A., Nueva York, where we have to be stronger to see
if we want to love.
The poem also clarifies what El Paso is not and is simultaneously.
… El Paso
that is not Palestine. El Paso that is not Iraq, Afghanistan. El Paso in Iraq
The poem then migrates to Hargill, which is another border town in the Texas southern valley. The speaker refers here to Gloria Anzaldúa merely as “Gloria.”
Vivid images fall and move through the poem: green parakeets, bobcats, blue herons, cacti blooming fuchsia flowers, cardinals in winter.
The poem moves from El Paso through El Paso to El Valle through El Valle and ends with a quote by Federico Garcia Lorca about what makes us all human:
… El Valle where I’m teachable.
Teachable by people like you who live their lives in order to love.
Because this is why many of us live our lives, but we don’t
Stop working to notice.
Pero yo ya no soy yo
ni mi casa es ya mi casa
en El Paso, en El Valle, everywhere.
Sheryl Luna is the author of Pity the Drowned Horses (University of Notre Dame Press), recipient of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize and Seven (3: A Taos Press), finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Recent work has appeared in Poetry, Saranac Review, Pilgrimage and Taos International Journal of Poetry and Art.