I write poems in the narrative lyric tradition about relationship, family and landscapes of love. I also tell stories from my work as an inner-city bilingual teacher turned anthropologist and linguist. I turn to the details in a poem to process abstractions like power, identity and justice. I aspire to write poems that have purpose and humor like those of my mentors - Dorianne Laux, Yehuda Amichai, June Jordon, Billy Collins, and Stephen Dunn, among others. Lastly, my poems reveal and revel in American Jewish culture. I see my work as close to conversational, grounded in detail, music, and the familiar-strange. I aim to do with the pen "what the eyes do/with the heart when the heart doesn't know/ what to do with the eyes." An Emerging Artist Grant will help fund time at a writers' conference to complete my first manuscript and begin the search for a publisher.
WHAT YOU ARE
Between Halloween and Martin Luther King Day,
little Ramona forgot her language, started to leave it
at home the day her classmates laughed. The day
she picked up a dirty piece of paper when the teacher
really told Ramona she'd dropped her glove.
That's how it starts, the señoras say.
When a piece of you drops off, and you pick up something else instead.
But nobody gives you that other piece back.
You have to fight for it. Like Ramona's cousin Gloria
who went back to the island when she was nineteen
because she was all-English, and the family said
she wasn't Puerto Rican anymore, like she always thought she was.
She was cool and what the fuck man. She even thought
you made sancocho from a can.
No way, Gloria says to Ramona.
Ain't nobody gonna give you back your culture
once you leave it lying there like a wrinkled
piece of paper. You have to put your name on it.
Purple with plantain stains on your fingers.
Puerto Rican. Puerto Riqueño. If they ask you,
that's what you are.