Excerpts

Passing On

Passing On by Julia Alvarez:

Emily in one hand, Walt in the other

that’s how I learned my craft, struggling

to navigate my own way between them

and get to where I wanted to end up:

some place dead center in the human heart.

I’ve had an odyssey with both along:

Emily with her slant sense of directions;

and rowdy Walt, so loud and in my face,

I’ve had to stuff his mouth with leaves of grass

at times to hear my own son of myself!

such mixtures are my fortre after all,

Since I prefer the hyphenated voice,

a little of this, a little of that,

my tías gossiping while rolling dough ,

my mother malapropping her clichés

(Don’t try to judge a forest by its leaves),

Gladys intoning her sad boleros

as she aweeps out the house of the childhoood,

Milagros with her sausy salsa songs,

my grandmother telling her rosary beads.

And most of these voices not in English,

some in Spanish, and some in that first tongue

when all I knew was heartbeat and the hum

of Mami’s murmuring blood becoming mine.

And now this mix of voices sails out-

a Tower of Babel crammed into Noah’s ark-

into the future silences beyond

where can I go and where those yet unborn

might read waht’s left of me, this voice

I now pass on, my own , and not my own.

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