Poetry Spotlight – Rane Arroyo

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.

– Martin Ott

 

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.

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