The hurricane hit hard
In a few hours
The picket-fenced homes
Were washed away
The tv, cable, phones, stoves
All lost power
“It surely must be the end of days”
A man in a R. Lauren jacket said.
A homeless man looked at him, quietly
For him, the end of days came a long time ago
Fuchsia and blue, the sky blew merciless
On the trees -I cried when they bent-
My friend’s roof flew away
An unlikely magic carpet in the wind
Why? The days of the BP spill in the Gulf
Were gone, “The fuel emissions can’t be responsible
For such destruction”- a woman with
A polished ivory necklace said
-A certain trepidation in her voice-
That a woman scientist discovered thousands
Of unexploded bombs in the bottom of the sea
I saw the photograph: a crab, attached to the moss
Was playing with a rusty valve
The lower part of the City was dark
A modern ghost town of the corporate age
A couple attempted to cross a street
With a flashlight
In the back, the evacuated apartments sighed
Orphans soaked in rain
In a shelter
A white supremacist accepted a blanket from
A volunteering black man
And I decided to go check if my hostile neighbors
Meanwhile, in Howard Beach
Two sharks swim
Near a flooded porch
We’ll see what the morning brings
To Bieké (Vieques)
The new millennium has already arrived
A dawning light after a dark night
Will it be a nuclear glare
Or the bright lamps of a golden city?
In the new millennium
I want strong hands that caress my body
Hands of passion and support
Sweet hands that honor the Earth
Hands that love the magic of rain
Words of truth
Pigeons in the windows
Whales in the waters
Maybe in the new millennium
There will be more children
Who laugh at their heart's content
Or will it be the industrial cloud
The law of the strongest
An open land
An opportunity for aggression?
Our people, proud of their deeds
Will sing their history near the sea
We are all heroes
It has been a journey of centuries
We may heal our wounds
And in the evenings of this millennium
Come out of our homes
With fresh, serene faces
To count one by one
Of a warm, new sky…
The House, the Fish and the Tree
I show my friend Sandra in the house where I have been living for some time. It’s round and it surrounds a huge tree; I don’t know if it’s a gigantic pine or a kapok tree. The trunk is a kapok tree’s, I think, but the branches look like the branches of a pine tree. The ceiling in the house is high and some of the branches that grow beneath it give a little shade to the interior, which I think is the living room or the main area of the house. Venetian blinds hanging on the wooden walls let light and fresh air inside and a round hole in the roof allows the trunk to go above the house. The color green is everywhere even though the floor is gray, made from cement tiles; I think the walls of the house were painted chartreuse. We can see the branches outside, but like in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, the crown is lost in the clouds and we can’t see it. Sandra shows me, worried, how the roots have raised some of the tiles and in the cracks, a little green grass is growing. I am not concerned and I tell her that it doesn’t bother me; it doesn’t matter to me that there are cracked tiles and that the grass is growing there. I tell her it’s important to build houses that integrate nature. Inside it was fresh and somewhat humid; you could feel a lot of oxygen in the air.
We walk around the house and I show her a small room. We look at some books in a bookcase. There are not very many. It seems as though some of the books have been taken and the one that are left are in disarray, some lying on their sides. I tell her that the books only need to be put in order and this room will be fine. We don’t go into the room; we look at it through a Venetian blind from inside the house.
Sandra tells me she has a surprise for me. I sit down near a dining room table to wait for her, it’s a room like the one in her house or the house of my childhood in my hometown. She brings me a clear glass vase with a wide mouth. Inside is a gold fish with a wide tail. It swims around and with its tail moves the water from one side to the other. I look at it and all of a sudden it starts to turn an iridescent peacock blue and the water reflects its color. We admire it, delighted at the transformation and then we see how it changes from blue to phosphorescent orange-red. Beautiful! Then, cut to the future, and I see myself serving food to some friends and with slight horror I see that on my oval serving platter, there’s a baked fish.
The house in my dream reminds me of the house where I was born, with open spaces at the top of the walls which face the terrace so that the air can circulate. I liked seeing the fish; the colors were very vibrant and my sign is Pisces. I am so happy that I am a vegetarian! (At least for the time being). Actually the fish reminded me of something that happened about twenty years ago, when I lived on Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn and I had my fish tank with goldfishes and catfish. One night I dreamed that my room was on the bottom of the sea and an enormous goldfish navigated through the currents and he wrote me a message in golden letters like the ones that blimps leave in the sky. The message was in English: Help me! Help me! I woke up but I don’t think I got up out of bed. I thought: in the morning I will check the fish tank and I’ll change the water. The next day, I went to the living room and the largest goldfish was floating dead in the tank. I thought then it was a special being or simply that I had sensed its conscience and until this day I feel a weight in my chest every time that I think about it. I ignored his cry for help; I didn’t respond in time.
Today Sandra calls me to talk. She tells me she’s reading Spheres 3, by Sloterdijk and that he says in the future nature won’t exist as we now know it; that’s to say it won’t exist separate from human beings who will have to learn to protect their environment by building cities like greenhouses, sealed environments where human life and nature will be artificially protected from air pollution that I imagine to be a imperceptible rain of toxic substances and microchips particles (or simply because there’s no longer any air outside.) Sandra is horrified by his vision; I am excited that he imagines a future, any kind of future. I tell her my dream enthusiastically.
I can tell on the phone that she is smiling. When I describe the colors of the fish she says, how pretty; but I understand that the volumes of Sloterdijk’s philosophy are thick and complex. How can they be linked with my nocturnal journeys? I think now, less optimistically, about the fish and birds in the Gulf, bathed inoil, not being able to breathe. With what pillows will we be able to silence their pleas in our dreams?
There’s also the tree, the center post in the house. I ask myself if it doesn’t evoke my nostalgia for the archetypal tree, the Tree of Life or the tree where the Buddha attained enlightenment. Or maybe it’s only a palliative for the blues of heartbreak: the longing for an axis, center and anchor for life. A tree that shelters me. ________________________________________________________
Translated from the Spanish by Nancy Ross. “The House, the Fish and the Tree” was first published in And Then vol. 16, 2011, pp. 33-34. All poems (c) 2013 by Myrna Nieves. All rights, including electronic, are reserved by the author.
Myrna Nieves is a writer, cultural activist, educator and director for twenty years of the Boricua College Winter Poetry Series. She has published the books Libreta de sueños (narraciones); Viaje a la lluvia, poemas and El Caribe: paraíso y paradoja. Visiones del intelectual en Alejo Carpentier y Emilio Díaz Valcárcel. She is also the editor of Breaking Ground: Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers in New York 1980-2012 / Abriendo caminos: antología de escritoras puertorriqueñas en Nueva York 1980-2012. Nieves has also co-authored and co-edited Tripartita: Earth, Dreams, Powers; Moradalsur; and was a compiler for the anthology of fiction Mujeres como islas and the anthology of poetry Mujeres como islas II poemas. Her work has been included in many literary magazines and anthologies. She has receieved an Award in Fiction from the PEN Club of Puerto Rico. She is a founding member and full professor at Boricua College (Bronx Campus). Nieves completed a BA in World Literature at the University of Puerto Rico, a Master of Arts in Spanish at Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean Literature at New York University. Nieves has presented her work widely.