I’ve been trying to get to some of the books on my shelves that I have had for awhile, and haven’t had a chance to read. I picked up The Portable Famine, by Rane Arroyo, who passed away in 2010. The book won the 2004 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and was published on BkMk Press.
Below is a poem The Immigrants (Winter Wear) that for me really captures his vibrant voice of the displaced Midwest-based poet of Puerto Rican heritage.
The Immigrants (Winter Wear)
They are, at first, scared of snowmen.
of the snow and the white men
so easily born between the hands of
children veiled in breaths and winter wear.
The immigrants worry about bodies
built without concerns for their souls,
about this strange country in which food
is so plentiful that carrots are used
for noses. White pillars are made by
tall chimneys. No wonder that furry
Santa Claus has replaced Jesus of
the desert: boots needed, as are hats
and vague drinks like vodka or gin. Rum
is too allied with the sun and the sugar
of any rotting calendar. This freezing
is a funeral before there is a corpse.
Snowballs take on the shape of baby skulls.
Snow angels need no documentations.
Enough, it’s over: back to thawing kitchens
full of chiles and recipes requiring all
that won’t grow in this version of tundra.
Seal up the goddamn windows with
steam, says an old woman, this is no cruise,
there is nothing to see. Crows fly across
the scars of ice ages, period marks desperate
for sentences. Language will be learned
and the unlearning is one storm at a time.
Nostalgia is seen as being ungrateful for
the blessings of the cold. Citizens walk on
water, here, while it’s thick ice, a miracle.
Snowmen melt without proper funerals as
immigrants are robbed of years of light.
Amigos, say snowflake, snowplow, snow-blind.