Welcome, Poetry Friday friends.
My friend Michael Rothenberg introduced me to a new-to-me poet, Virgil Suarez. Michael is a poet, founder of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and art-collaborator with me on the monster poems I’ve shared in the past.
I visited Michael in Tallahassee, Florida in January — a few short weeks before the lockdown began. He recommended I read The Painted Bunting’s Last Molt, Suarez’s 2020 book.
Suarez’s roots are in Cuba, so many of the poems in this book deal with Cuba as a setting, culture, and home of the heart. The pain and dangers of migration and immigration are among the most powerful themes in the collection.
Because I am working on a verse novel set on a body of water (the Chesapeake Bay), Suarez’s poems resonated with me. Today — with his permission — I’m sharing Virgil Suarez’s poem “When Leaving the Country of Your Birth.” The profound sense of loss in this poem is expressed through a series of questions, connecting the “you” to the land left behind.
The poem connected deeply for me as I think about the main character in my WIP, especially the section that begins, “Who will remember you, child?”
When Leaving the Country of Your Birth
By Virgil Suarez
Will the wind remember your body, its weight
slanted against a white wall?
Will the river flood the valleys, carve a new path
into the roots of mountains?
Will palm trees bend and birth coconuts,
these yellow beacons in the blinding light?
Will buildings crumble into rubble and dust,
ruins of memory’s instant flash?
Will your aunt’s parrot still hang by the doorway
that leads to the patio, calling out, “Mariposa!”
Will the sea rush El Malecón in dangerous weather?
Will your old house stand in the shadows
of all the plantains your father planted?
Will the baobab at the corner grow wider, it’s elephant
skin roots sunk deep into the earth?
Who will remember you, child? Who will sigh
Who will greet you there in the old neighborhood
upon your return?
Who will say that you are now a “mariposa,” not
Who will trace the bread crumbs this far out?
This book is available from University of Pittsburgh press.