I’m not assigned to blog this evening, but after reading Cathy Song’s “Lost Sister” I was reminded of a poem call “En la playa” by a Nicaraguan poet named Claribel Alegria. I read in a Spanish lit. class last year and thought I’d share it on the blog to see if anyone else saw similarities.
Here is the poem (translated version):
It’s really nothing. / Come here. / Pick up the bucket with your other hand / I’ll tell you another story if you stop crying / it happened in China / Do you know where China is? / She shakes her head, no, and approaches reluctantly / with her runny nose / and her blue bathing trunks / shedding sand. / A long time ago, I tell her as she climbs onto my lap, far away in China they used to bind women’s feet / so they’d stop growing / all the rest of them grew except their feet imprisoned in bandages / and the poor women could scarcely walk/their fingernails were left long more claws than fingernails/and the poor women could scarcely pick up a cup to drink their tea/It’s not that they were useless it’s that their fathers their husbands their bothers wanted them that way: a luxury object or a slave/that still happens all over the world/it’s not their feet that are bound but their minds, Carole/and there are women who accept it and women how don’t/let me tell you about Rafaela Herrera: together with other women she terrified none other than Lord Nelson with drums with fireworks with shouts/there wasn’t a single man there only women/Lord Nelson was frightened/he thought the whole country had risen against him (he’d come from England to invade Nicaragua) and he’d returned to his own land defeated/your twisted thumd is like being a woman/you’ll have to use it a lot and you’ll see how well it serves you/Run along and play now/don’t carry sand/help your cousins build the castle/put towers on it and walls and terraces and knock it down and build it up/don’t carry sand let them do it for a while/let them bring you bucketsful of sand
The part in Song’s poem about foot binding reminded me of this:
And the daughters were grateful:
They never left home.
To move freely was a luxury
stolen from them at birth.
Instead, they gathered patience;
learning to walk in shoes
the size of teacups,
the arc of their movements
It seems like both poets evoke a sense of heritage between women: “You remember your mother
who walked for centuries”
It seemed to me that there was a sentiment of abandoning the past through emigration, away from their home country. Whereas Alegria’s poem seems to speak about a relationship between women that extends beyond heritage. Do you think Song is sending a different message to her readers about how the past should affect time?