America, Canada #Thanksgiving #poem #Cuba #coffee #Pumpkin

To read the poem skip the long into 🙂

Peanut butter Jam sandwiches came to my notice with a cartoon book by Gary Larson. He showed two cartoons -one of his far side and one of Dennis the Menace- where the quotes under the cartoons had been accidentally (?!) swapped. The Far Side cartoon showed, I think, two dinosaurs fighting ostensibly over peanut butter and jam sandwiches. So…they became my “healthy” after exercise favourites. Nuts are healthy. Fruit is healthy.

My parents being from Indonesia, we ate spicy peanut butter sauce a lot. The derogatory term for families like us in Dutch is “katjangs” (peanuts).  A famous Dutch children’s book is called How the Peanuts came to the Boarding School of mr. Small Tummy (who actually had a fat belly): it is about two mixed Indo-Dutch boys who are sent to the Netherlands.

I guess from the poem that Cubans in Cuba don’t eat much peanut butter, or the generation Blanco talks about anyway. Fried plantain chips though! We had those on Aruba too. And an Indonesian staple as well. Fried plantain so good. It is lovely to have a small store in your neighbourhood where you can the fruits and meats from your childhood or your background.

The poem seems to be about food and food until you read it again and notice some political stuff: stanza I mentions food donations by the Immigration Department. Was this before foodstamps?  II mentions the cuban community coming together to hold on to their dignity and to close their eyes from the loss of status and connections and the racism that would rob them of jobs, of chances, of promotions, of recognition.

III mentions colouring books in class that depict yams and presumably native americans who help the pilgrims survive the winters. A fiction that colours genocide with yellow, brown, and turkey red.

IV is all about politics and the illustrates perfectly the empty words that freedom, liberty and justice can become without hearing all the stories of colonization and opportunity and murder and riches and plantations and community.
I like this verse the least because it feels empty. I like how the child is supported by their family by making concessions on foods.

V The other food, the American food, is judged to be dry and pumpkin pie not suitable for celebrations, for isn’t it medicinal? They tried pleasing everyone and thus pleased no-one.
Who doesn’t forget their worries with dancing…The joy of hearing your sounds, being back where you belong. Or think you belong. When we would go to Indonesian or Caribbean events in the Netherlands, dancing and food were the success we judged the party by. Dancing with someone else of course. None of this on your own nonsense. No loss of connections allowed. Everything aimed to glue us together. Forget the loneliness of another culture for a night.

América
By Richard Blanco

I.
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.
There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio’s Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—“Ese hijo de puta!”
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.
By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either—
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.
A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea,”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free,”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.
Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth’s.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
“DRY,” Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—“esa mierda roja,” he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

Richard Blanco, “América” from City of a Hundred Fires. Copyright © 1998. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, http://www.pitt.edu/~press/. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.
Source: City of a Hundred Fires (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

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Intercity by Margarida Vale de Gato #sex #poem #love

Intercity

we ride down the backs of hills inside
the earth eating eucalyptus eating haystacks
spitting out the wind spitting out time spitting out
time
time the trains gulp the opposite way going
the opposite way stealing our time my love

I need you who are flying
to me
but you fly unfurling sails over the sea
you have wing-space you hover you drift while I
keep crawling towards you along the rails
with occasional sparks I write to you my love
cheating your absence the claustrophobia of the mustard
coloured curtains you walk on water and now
I know
words are less worthy than boats

I need you my love in this loneliness this forsakenness
of thick curtains preventing the sun preventing my
flight and nevertheless on the opposite side
the sky boasts little lamb clouds hopping
hopping on oats and wheat fields there are none here
we eat eucalyptus eucalyptus and whitewashed churches
leaning over level-crossing whitewashed churches
my love
I smoke a cigarette in between two stops I read
Lobo Antunes I think people are sad people
are so sad people are pathetic my
love just as well you hide me from the world you hide
me from the world’s patronising smiles the world’s
self-righteous consent
by night on your loins my love I
am also a boat sitting on top of your body
I am a mast

I need you my love I am tired I ache
close to where my eyes are set I feel like crying still I
desire you but before before you touch me before you say
I want you my love you shall let me sleep a hundred years
a hundred years from today we’ll be boats again
I am lonely
Portugal is everlasting we eat eucalyptus
everlasting eucalyptus lean and green
we eat eucalyptus interspersed with shrubs
we eat eucalyptus the ache of your absence my love
we eat this heat and the railtracks and anguish
set ablaze inside Lobo Antunes’ novel
we eat eucalyptus and Portugal is everlasting Portugal
is huge and I need you and in the opposite way they are stealing
time it’s our time they are stealing my love it’s time
time for us to be boats and sail through walls inside rooms
my love to be boats at night
at night to blow oh sweetly blow into full sail

boats.

 

Intercidades

galopamos pelas costas dos montes no interior
da terra a comer eucaliptos a comer os entulhos de feno
a cuspir o vento a cuspir o tempo a cuspir
o tempo
o tempo que os comboios do sentido contrário engolem
do sentido contrário roubam-nos o tempo meu amor

preciso de ti que vens voando
até mim
mas voas à vela sobre o mar
e tens espaço asas por isso vogas à deriva enquanto eu
vou rastejando ao teu encontro sobre os carris faiscando
ocasionalmente e escrevo para ti meu amor
a enganar a tua ausência a claustrofobia de cortinas
cor de mostarda tu caminhas sobre a água e agora
eu sei
as palavras valem menos do que os barcos

preciso de ti meu amor nesta solidão neste desamparo
de cortinas espessas que impedem o sol que me impedem
de voar e ainda assim do outro lado
o céu exibe nuvens pequeninas carneirinhos a trotar
a trotar sobre searas de aveia e trigais aqui não há
comemos eucaliptos eucaliptos e igrejas caiadas
debruçadas sobre os apeadeiros igrejas caiadas
meu amor
eu fumo um cigarro entre duas paragens leio
o Lobo Antunes e penso as pessoas são tristes as
as pessoas são tão tristes as pessoas são patéticas meu
amor ainda bem que tu me escondes do mundo me escondes
dos sorrisos condescendentes do mundo da comiseração
do mundo
à noite no teu corpo meu amor eu
também sou um barco sentada sobre o teu ventre
sou um mastro

preciso de ti meu amor estou cansada dói-me
em volta dos olhos tenho vontade de chorar mesmo assim
desejo-te mas antes antes de me tocares de dizeres quero-te
meu amor hás-de deixar-me dormir cem anos
depois de cem anos voltaremos a ser barcos
eu estou só
Portugal nunca mais acaba comemos eucaliptos
eucaliptos intermináveis longos e verdes
comemos eucaliptos entremeados de arbustos
comemos eucaliptos a dor da tua ausência meu amor
comemos este calor e os caminhos de ferro e a angústia
a deflagrar combustão no livro do Lobo Antunes
comemos eucaliptos e Portugal nunca mais acaba Portugal
é enorme eu preciso de ti e em sentido contrário roubam-nos
o tempo roubam-nos o tempo meu amor tempo
o tempo para sermos barcos e atravessar paredes dentro dos quartos
meu amor para sermos barcos à noite
à noite a soprar docemente sobre as velas acesas

barcos.

© Translation by Margarida Vale de Gato and Ana Hudson, 2010

in Mulher ao Mar, 2010http://www.poemsfromtheportuguese.org/Margarida__Vale_de_Gato

Urban Haikus II

The birds have arrived
The birdfeeder is empty
Squirrel runs away

A cat named Panda
Cute, but don’t let that fool you –
He killed a squirrel!

— Talib

house across the street
silent and empty-
bank owns it

red leaves fluttering
skittering across the lawn-
broken toys 

Michael Pruchnicki

 

Jasmine scent lingers –
Although not in a garden
But a moving train

–Talib

The Harsh Morning Headache,
The Sweet Smell Of Summer Air,
Stop drinking and smoking man, it’ll kill you.

Krystian Szastok