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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 190-191
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My father's name is Jose. He's been a widower, and: The poet's obligation is to write a true
My father's name is José. He's been a widowerMy father's name is José. He's been a widower
since he was thirty-two. He's seventy-three
now. He became a widower when my mother, Elena, died
at thirty-two. A communist. My uncles, the
brothers of my mother and neighbors of my father,
said he was a communist. All my childhood I heard
my father was a communist, during
the fifties, when the American influence
(now you would say North American, but at the time
it was the American influence) shone in the shoes
of Doris Day, red like my shame, not like my sex,
red like the dressing rooms.
To be a communist in Uruguay in the fifties was
to be brave because they stoned you. The son of José,
the communist, orphaned by his mother, aware
that they stoned you, for a long time I believed I was Christ.
When he was fifty my father was put in jail, made prisoner.
He appeared on television, head shaven, alias Jacinto, connected
to the Tupamaro guerrilla movement. He was sentenced
to 24 years of prison
but got out in half the time, twelve years, amnestied.
Those twelve years as a prisoner he spent in the Establecimiento
Penal de Reclusión Militar no. 1, or "Liberty." He
spent 12 years as a prisoner in "Liberty." As for me,
it was no longer possible for me to escape from poetry. [End Page 190]
The poet's obligation is to write a trueThe poet's obligation is to write a true
glass, something sublime that's useful for more
than just living. Living has never been enough.
To ask for essence, to ask for marrow, to ask for bone:
to ask for a hardening of the sand, if the sand
is still fragile, light of feet, shrouded feet,
is to ask for limestone, sedimentary rock. Out of thirst
for you naked as if returning to the Precambrian.
Something terrible happened to us and we knew it:
the bone that we asked of the poem was the same
bone as the bone of Africa
although we wished for rock.
The sands of Africa are filled with poems.