Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mira, mira, our Spanish-speaking kin
are always saying, “Look and look again.” It amuses us,
this insistence on seeing, even when they mean listen.
Could it be that they keep the world less at bay
than we, their exiled children? That they can see
emotions in color? Anger is the scarlet
hibiscus; joy the blue of the Puerto Rican sky
after a July rainstorm, and grief,
a black mantilla on the head of the woman
sitting alone in the last pew of an empty church.
Mira, hija, I say to you in my mother’s voice,
when I mean listen, and you may turn your eyes
in the direction of some unexpected bit of wonder:
the dull gray city pigeon is iridescent
in a certain slant of light, and she perches
at your window. If this is not enough, pues, mira,
the sun shines indiscriminately over everything. Mira.
Even the shadows make interesting designs on the concrete.
Listen: whatever the weather, when you step outside
and breathe deeply, you inhale the history
of our race in each molecule: Eve’s desire,
Cleopatra’s ambition, Magdalene’s guilt,
the New World of Isabel of Castile,
the fierce conquests of Elizabeth, and the genius
of Sor Juana and Virginia Woolf; here too remains,
the labored breath of an old woman
fishing a day’s meal at the dumpster,
and the fears of the fourteen-year-old runaway,
who will soon run out of breath; my own sigh
of relief and joy as the nurse settled you
in my arms on the day you arrived
breathless into the world.
Try to speak
in Spanish in your dreams. Say sol,
día, sueños, as you fall asleep. See
if you can believe that tomorrow
may be the day you have wished for
all your life, if not,
perhaps the day after.