Three Poems by Catherine Valdez

Names

I love how you wear the shade under a tree
I see, even though you say I am your blind girl

I hold your hand, so calloused that it reminds me
of orange rind—tough, yet so easily peeled.
I’m afraid I’ll expose all those chalk-like bones .

I started school a week ago, a year late, and you ask:
“Remind me, Caty. What—did they rename you?”

I will say that it is an aerated word, so thin
it can hang like spit from your teeth, I cannot
pronounce my own name the way they do.

“Listen, Ka-te-ree-ne, if we’re speaking
English, this tongue simply won’t do.”

 

II.

Cah-tea not Katie

I won’t speak English
into your ear today. Forgive
me for those American Cicadas
I thought were rough drafts
of fairies. Forgive me for thinking
a mouth bows like a wing
and not a burdened back

The rolled Rs make the Spanish tongue
a red-crested thing, and you
should always show deference for beasts
that dart out of you.

Cah-teh-Reen not Catherine

 

You, or the name that suits a girl today

Jersey devil, exile of the womb. Where you ever coddled? Is your heart cleft
so it forms a hoof in your chest, will not stop its midnight canter? You’ve talked
in your sleep these last 30 years, and I’ve been sleepless for at least two
When you left, you flew out like a loose tooth. Did you know, a curse can loosen
the tooth, so all that remains are the gums/gums/gums in my mouth
that have begun to look like dirt mounds for you to pace your wild-girl feet through.

 

On Gardens

Somewhere in exile my eldest sister Carmen has started a rose garden,
trained those flowers into a mouth, placed many little stones
like yellowed incisors. We do not grow flowers at home
because they are fickle with their telenovela-like fainting
spells, and the water pump will not moan for them
like it does for a parched tongue. We plant sugar-cane
instead so sturdy, who wouldn’t confuse the tubing
for their throat.

 

 

***

Catherine Valdez is a Dominican-American poet. She is currently attending Columbia University and majors in creative writing and psychology. Her chapbook, Chimera, has also been published by the literary magazine Quarto.

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