NEA fellowships really matter. And for at least two reasons. First, is the obvious - the wonderful financial boost they give, which in my case let me go to Xalapa, where I worked every day and came back with a manuscript I'd been thinking about for years, and even with some new poems. But second, and more important in the long run, has been the gift of being chosen for this at all. Maybe because I've never taught English, or maybe because I don't live among writers, or maybe just because I am the way I am, I periodically decide that nothing I've ever done could possibly matter to anyone else. Getting an NEA has been like being given overdrive in a letter--the energy to break through those times--and they aren't rare--when I'm convinced that no matter how hard I try, I'll never write again. When I think about it, I'm flooded with gratitude. How lucky I am, how lucky we all are, to live in a society willing to help people who are trying to contribute not to the economy but to the soul. Thank you, NEA.
Amor y la Mujer
Se lo prueba, como si fuera un vestido.
Decide que no le queda,
y empieza a quitárselo.
Su piel se desprende, tambien
She tries it on, like a dress.
She decides it doesn't fit
and starts to take it off.
Her skin comes, too.
(This is the same poem, in the original Spanish and in translation)
Against gaud, the poet who slings words like drops of water
the way a dog shakes his fur, who slings so hard even fleas spin out
Against this: the dog who slings off all that is not-dog
Against dark, the reversion always to the easy choice, the one
dark glass every night always the dry, so careful never to choose
the sweet, what would they think
Against the unfaded rectangle of wall where I allowed the picture
too long, until it burned its image there, peach rising, moon-fuzz
over the lapping sea, and how shall I cover that space,
having no picture larger
Against the brain-coral, because it is no longer in the sea
and is a lie, because it gathers dust, my grandmother's body-dust
who died so many years before she died Against the black-red in me
my fury like an angry horse at her going to bed to wait
Against the rough and pitted stone, because I hold carnelian
with its blood lights year after year, because I polish it
with a cloth whose emery wears my hands away,
because I passion this thing I do and you say
I should be satisfied, that I should not need you
Against my low and matted hair, my bitch-bones, against the food
I serve you raw, the fetching that I do Against you