Comment on this article


The Island Within
              for Ruth Behar
by Richard Blanco

I'm still thinking about your porch light
like a full moon casting a foggy halo
in the frigid air last night. The bare oaks
branching into the sky like nerve endings
inches away from the frozen stars,
the pink gables of your Victorian home
protesting yet another winter for you
captive in Ann Arbor as you practice
mambo by the fireplace. I'm following
your red-velvet shoes to conga beats
and bongo taps taking your body, but
not your life, from the snow mantling
your windows outside, 1,600 miles
away from Cuba. I'm tasting the cafecito
you made, the slice of homemade flan
floating in burnt sugar like the stories
you told me you can't finish writing,
no matter how many times you travel
through time back to Havana to steal
every memory ever stolen from you.

You're a thief anyone would forgive,
wanting only to imagine faces for names
chiseled on the graves of your family
at Guanabacoa, walk on Calle Aguacate
and pretend to meet the grandfather
you never met at his lace shop for lunch,
or pray the Kaddish like your mother
on the steps there like you once did
in a photo you can't remember taking.
I confess I pitied you, still trying to reach
the unreachable island within the island
you still call home. I thought I was done
with Cuba, tired of filling in the blanks,
but now I'm not sure. Maybe if I return
just once more, walk the sugarcane fields
my father once cut, drive down the road
where my mother once peddled guavas
to pay for textbooks, sit on the porch
of my grandmother's house, imagine her
still in the kitchen making arroz-con-leche‐
maybe then I'll have an answer for you
last night when you asked me: Would you
move to Cuba? Would you die there?


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]