The Suitcase was Stuffed
The suitcase was stuffed
with scorpions, with clay pots and dirt
roasted corn and fava beans, with pans of warm bronze
of dulce de leche and quince
canvas bulging from the lunges of poisonous snakes.
Our destiny was to be far from the aroma
of plantain and tree tomato
ripened on the lips of roofs.
Our destiny was like my father’s –
a couple of schellings in the pocket pierced by a star
he said goodbye to his father with the idea of detaching himself
like a caracol rooted in chasms of tenderness
no time to take the black doll
whose arm was stitched so often the thread held time
and no time to take the knee socks
I wore on the last day of high school
no time to take the trees I climbed by myself
to the middle of a hive that buzzed between my temples
no time to take the warmth of the popcorn pot
no time to take the way I skipped rope in the courtyard
no time to take
the family album embroidered in cross stitch
destined to the parting
destined to lemon-grass teas
steeped in tears that flushed our hearts
we left with the hot coals of a fate not chosen
we arrived before we knew it
men with fish eyes and the accent of crude ants detained us
you must declare all the dirt that you are bringing
you could be fined
you cannot bring food to this country
you will be fined
defensively we declared our pots of roasted corn and fava beans
we lifted our underthings trembling
and felt what it was to step foot on land not our own
they inspected all we had
and did not pay attention to the snakes.
From that day on
we came to know the destiny of border
to make love to snapshots yellowed
by the distance of their background.
We opened up the suitcase
and from that day on
hummingbirds in exile.
J. C. Todd, winner of the 2016 International Literary Award’s Rita Dove Poetry Prize and a Pew Fellow in the Arts, is author of three collections of poetry, What Space This Body, Nightshade, and Entering Pisces, as well as FUBAR, a limited edition artist book created in collaboration with visual artist MaryAnn L. Miller (Lucia Press, 2016). Other awards include finalist for the Robert H. Winner Award and for the Lucille Medwick Lyric Poetry Award, both from the Poetry Society of America.
Todd is the 2016 Pew Fellow at the Ucross Foundation, a Fellow of the Ragdale Foundation, and has been a Virginia Center for Creative Arts international exchange artist at Schloss Wiepersdorf in Germany. Other residencies include those at VCCA, the Hambidge Center, and the Baltic Center for Artists and Translators in Sweden. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Big Bridge, and elsewhere. She is a faculty member of the Creative Writing Program at Bryn Mawr College and the MFA Program at Rosemont, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
JC Todd in this Edition
Full and Empty: The Contradiction of Translation
Instant of Turbulence
Mock Orange on Wash Day
Morning After the Bombing
Necklace of Silence
The Suitcase was Stuffed
When the Envelope Opens, Open
Ivón Gordon Vailakis, poet, essayist and literary critic, has published Colibríes en el exilio (Ecuador: El Conejó Press, 1997), Nuestrario (Mexico: Impreteri Press, 1987) and Manzanilla del insomnio (El Conejó, 2002), which was an honorable mention in the Jorge Carrera Andreade Award in Poetry and winner of the Artist of the Year award from the city of Quito. Her poetry and critical essays have appeared in journals in the Ecuador and Mexico and the United States. Colibíies en el exilio was a finalist for the prestigious Extraordinary Award of the Casa de las Americas. Born in Quito, she immigrated to the U. S., receiving a Ph.D. in Latin American Literature from the University of California, Irvine, and is a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature at University of Redlands in California. A former Fulbright Scholar, her interests include Latin American poetry, the Latino Diaspora and borderlands studies. Her scholarly interests include Gabriela Mistral, and Ecuadorian poets César Vallejo and Jorge Carrera Andrade. Colibríes en el exilio (Hummingbirds in Exile) has been translated by J. C. Todd