When night is a lamp that has to be
lit, and your heart and your mind are part of it, what do you think,
passing nearby, when you see how my window reflects your bold flight?
Is it what you see now, here in my eyes? Are you free? Is it good? Is
it bright? Is it, like truth, both sad and both right? Say yes! Say
yes! Say light!
(Like the drawings, these hastily
written passages are best seen as impressions in and of the moment.
No bird or bee or butterfly will work or rest forever on a single
flower. It is all the flowers that we seek and need. It is all a
flower, in flower, and we are flowering.)
In closing my short review of William Archila’s first book back in 2009, I said, “In poem after poem,
Archila makes something beautiful out of tragedy and suffering. He
writes to clarify and to survive. He speaks as if the sun were a
lemon and its juice is running down his arms, cleansing wounds he
knows might never fully heal. Memory is dirt in his pockets, a native
feather, a corpse without its shoes. Language is a song in his
mouth.” Today, after having finished reading his second book, which
also treats painfully, truthfully, and eloquently of living through and beyond the
trial and tragedy of El Salvador, the first thought that springs to
There are words in the
ground, and the ground is memory,
and memory is a ghost,
making its rounds.
This reader wants peace for
Archila. He also wants peace for the ghost. It’s beautiful how they
have learned to live together, and to aid one another in their quest
for expression. But the day will come when the poet will set aside
his shovel, wipe his brow, and seek the clouds. What, then, will
become of the ghost? Is freedom for one, freedom for both? I think so. I think so.
The thing is, I remember those edible
crayons, broad, flat, aromatic, and the rough paper we were given on
which to make our marks, a kind of cross between sewing remnants and my mother’s dish towels. But even more clearly than this, I
remember the first time I made a purple sky, not knowing it was
purple, until its purplicity was pointed out to me by my drawing
partner, a cheerful little boy whose name escapes me at the moment. I
thought the sky was blue, but the truth is, I was less concerned with
the so-called proper naming of colors, than with their temperature,
sound, and other miraculous properties. For instance, if I were to
say the little boy’s skin was brown, and leave it at that, I would
be committing a crime against its sweaty-cumin scent, which somehow
told stories about the sun. And so it goes. And so the purple sky
Today is my mother’s birthday, and
her grandmother’s as well. Mom was born in 1922, Amanda in 1859.
Amanda’s old Seth Thomas clock, the one Mom knew from her
childhood, is still ticking away on our wall. I wind it every two or
three days. And for the smoke, and the roar, and the clatter that
will keep me awake tonight, I don’t care a fig. We are sailing
through space, among the stars. How embarrassing the need for borders
and flags, holsters and guns. One uncle in a military graveyard in
Italy. Another who did not speak for six months after his lucky
return home. Happy Birthday, Mom. Your love to everyone.