Magdalena Gómez is an award-winning playwright and Poet Laureate of Springfield, MA, where she co-founded Teatro V!da, the first Latinx intergenerational performing arts collective in the history of the city. She also created and implemented Springfield’s, Ign!te the M!c, offering youth
peer to peer production, hosting, sustaining, directing and producing all aspects of a monthly open M!c at the Bing Arts Center. Ms. Gómez is an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow (2021-2022); Her memoir Mi’ja was released in May of this year, by Heliotrope Books in New York City. www.latinapoet.com www.mijamemoir.com
This poem was inspired by an art installation by photographer, Pablo
Delano, “The Museum of the Old Colony.” After reading and facilitating my
“Visceral Viewing” writing workshops as part of the exhibition at the
Hampshire College Art Gallery, I created a series of poems inspired by the
installation. This poem became my original poem for a series of “Palo”
poems. I am grateful to Pablo Delano and Amy Halliday for inviting me and
for an inspiring/daring/deeply researched/educational/anti-colonial exhibit.
The image that conjured this poem from me depicts armed Boricua women
standing guard over their countrywomen. I encourage you to learn more
about Delano’s work:
That little pistol in your anemic hand
is more piss than pistol, mi’jita.
It gives you away. You know
you’re on the wrong side of things.
What did they promise?
Milk for your child?
That agua tindanga
from the palangana
of corporations in cahoots
with our sterilization,
milk that is no milk,
it is meao de gato
in powdered form
They are very big on bleach.
Did they promise you
a crown of stars from their flag?
Chocolate and church bells?
A job to open your mouth
and swallow pills for nervios?
You don’t have nervios, mi’ja.
What you have is malnutrition
that makes your brain panic
at the sight of anything
that threatens your access
to the scraps from their tables.
We are a ripped stem of
in their brutish hands
bite into skin
suck the seed bald
They are too pendejo know
those seeds will grow.
You see how my hands hold each other?
You think I am afraid.
You think I’m praying.
You think I’m anxious.
You think I’m protecting a mouse
to keep for a pet in dark, airless rooms
hidden beneath a sheet
of paper mattress.
I am holding Jayuya, Ponce, Río Piedras
I am holding Utuado y San Juan
I am holding what has been and what is to come.
I am holding Peñuelas, Mayagüez, y Naranjito
I am holding El Grito that belongs
to more than Lares.
I am holding La Perla.
I am holding El Fanguito.
I am holding Blanca Canales.
I am holding Agüeybana.
I am holding names that will rise again.
I am holding Ghosts and their caracoles.
I am holding Ancestral Spirits and their dancing.
I am holding Orishas and their magic.
I am holding the knowing
of where I came from.
I am holding you, hermana.
You are my sister.