The Quality of Our Light


Llave #7

In March 2016 I am neck deep in crisis during one of the happiest times of my life. On leave to write my dissertation, finishing a novel ,  and signing a contract on a bilingual fairytale that is not about drug addicts, but is about my mother because everything I have ever written has been about her. Happy in a home I love surrounded by my own little circle of love that is a carefully tended by all who live here. Teaching students at Bronx Community College who inspire me every day to get better, to bring my best game because they are bringing everything they have and it keeps it all live and beautiful. That was last week. That was today. That was never. Never because the crisis has never been far from the door and it howls at the windows, or sneaks in under the door, or slides in through the cracks and there are always cracks, and it is ever close at hand.

El tubo

I have no idea how to be a daughter to my parents though I have spent a lifetime trying. I fake it. Sometimes I am shiny good daughter running to and from hospitals doing for them what they did not do for me. Sometimes I am sitting in my house writing an essay and they are together alone in the worse health crisis of their lives because I don’t know how to be there and not be angry, afraid, resentful, confused. I don’t know how to hold space for them or for me and I think to myself:  How is it I still don’t know how to do this?  Then I realize that is what I really meant to say, have been trying to say. I don’t know how to do this because there is no way to do this right. I will never know how to do it except however I figure out how to do it for that day or hour and yet, I go back to Audre Lorde and her infinite capacity for healing and guidance. I offer a longer quote than is probably normal for a personal essay, but what can be normal when trying to hit a bullseye that keeps moving.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

Audre Lorde

So when Audre Lorde writes “Poetry is not a luxury”, I hear story is not a luxury and I hear truth is not a luxury, and it all comes clear. I have no interest in telling my story, our story, to perpetuate myths or stereotypes, and I certainly don’t need or long for pity, though compassion is always warmly received for we are all the walking wounded with a story that needs to be respected and honored.  I need to add our story to the quality of light by which I can scrutinize our lives and give names to nameless, so it can be thought.  I am never writing about Puerto Rican drug addicts or drug dealers or people on welfare. I am writing about sons and daughters and mothers and fathers. I am writing about the people I have most loved and been loved by, however imperfectly, which is I think the only way any of us know how to love. I am writing to imagine our triumph, but I cannot do it without first documenting how we were brought to our knees. All of this written and I still have no idea which room or floor I will go to first when I finally get myself to the hospital or if I will get there in time, or if I will know how to feel and what to do. But I know that whatever I go in there with now has more light and more clarity and has begun to give names to the nameless.

2 thoughts on “The Quality of Our Light

  1. Hi Connie,
    Thanks for all the support! I polished and edited the whole siete llaves essay and it has been accepted in an anthology. I definitely fell off the weekly essay, but I have two huge projects I am wrapping up. This space helped me start submitting smaller work again, and it has been very helpful.


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