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42 pages, Paperback
First published October 15, 2016
Her backwards-facing feet were no mistake, they say,I was unfamiliar with the creature of "La Ciguapa" but apparently she is a mythological creature of Dominican folklore who takes the bodily form of a woman with brown or dark blue skin with backward-facing feet. You shouldn't look her in the eye, as she, similarly to a siren, tries to lure men to their death. In the poem, Acevedo asks "Who tells her story anymore?", reminding us of the many myths and stories (that form our cultural identity) that have been lost and forgotten about. It is a plea for remembrance.
she was never meant to be found, followed—
an unseeable creature of crane legs, saltwater crocodile scales,
long break of a parrot no music sings forth from.
I convinced myself silence was strength.I like the honesty of the poem, and I can imagine that lots of immigrants can relate to her words.
Won’t feed from her fingers
the hardened aches she offers.
I fold into two walls, hide from her hands.
Peel my ear when she reminds me
daughters are meant to veil themselves behind the skirt
of their mothers. When are you going to visit?
I don’t tell her this is why I left.
I hold all the smiles of my daughter.In the poem, Acevedo transforms the body of the girl into a weapon against abuse ["She will be carved from hard rock. / Sharpened –Shrapnel – A spearhead / Her whole body ready to fling itself / and arrow the hadn't of the first man / who tries to cover her mouth."] It is an incredibly powerful poem that sent a chill down my spine.
Tipped up to the milk of this promise:
she will not walk hunched.
Forced to turn herself into a corner.
Taught her body it is a place to huddle.
She will not smile polite as men make war on her.
it never ends here—does it, ti cheri? The bodies hanging from silk trees.Another such poem is "La Santa Maria", which refers to the largest ship that Christopher Columbus used during his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. Something that I didn't know was that on December 25, 1492, the Santa Maria ran into a sandbar off Hispañola, the island with the present-day states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The ship could not be saved and its wood was used to build the first Spanish settlement on American soil, La Navidad, where Columbus left about 30 to 35 of his people. In 2014, it was published that a wreck had been found in 2003 off the coast of Haiti that was said to be the remains of the Santa Maria.
Who amongst us understands the needIt's a haunting poem that traces back not only Anacoana's history and fate, but also the fatal step of European colonization of the Americas. After researching that particular part of Dominican history, it was a joy going back to that particular poem and finding all the references.
of a white man’s anger?
They burned her people alive.
Gifted her a collar of rope,
cheered as her fingers scraped
at her throat for air.
It was a hot day. It always
is on the Island. Her toes made wind
as she swung, then grooves in the sand
as she was lowered and a world ended
and a new one cracked open:
swallowed us all.
For superstitions: treat them like salt, scatter them before you leaveThis chapbook was so different from The Poet X and just as beautiful. It was such a quick read but it packed a punch, I'd say my absolute top favorite of the collection has to be Conversations because of the way she displayed mother/daughter relationships in Dominican culture so damn well. Elizabeth Acevedo has this way with language that is otherworldly yet so utterly easy to relate to since this collection is sprinkled with the ghosts of Dominican culture and with mythology.
and let them impale themselves into the soles of your feet.