e-book From Another Angle (An askance but poetic look at the Christian Faith)

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Why such gloom? Murky skies lift our spirits. When buzzards roost on rooftops, we see Dominicans, tonsured and aquiline, wings clasped in penance. We are Latins, not yeoman yanquis. Those plain churches in your cherished Chesapeake Bay are mere hovels to us. We prefer overwrought facades, garish bell towers, rituals rich with condiment.

Gilded altars rouse our faith, candles titillate, incense makes us so giddy we can crawl on cobbles as if plush pillows. Transubstantiation is gobbledygook, but I do understand yeast. Not the wild kind that breeds in cauldrons of dank air; I mean the bloom, that soft, white powder on black grapes before they get squeezed to must then vinify in casks of Calvary. My yeast comes from merlots plump as fish eyes I keep safe from molds in a tin tabernacle, my paschal oven by the altar stone where I bongo the dough, roll the loaf, three taps on the rump.

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. Even Judas gets a ginger effigy.

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Yeast is all you need to raise the dead. I grew up the beggar of seeds, almsgiver to strays, then was by chance apprenticed to a barber but bungled combing, inept at leeching, loose with razors. Misfortune was my blessing. How else could I have become your Bishop of Brooms, my crosier that sweeps away the sins of the world, my miter the do-rag I wear to scrub naves. Jesus favors the lowly laborer, bruised of knee, rickety boned. The rich are wrong to think they will go to Heaven. Their gold offerings evaporate to dross, their pleas drain like water through limestone.

Give thanks to Our Lord for linty purses, empty cupboards, calloused soles. A widow with ten kids, she has skin like olives Brined, jute hair, gaunt eyes, yet her bony hips Are lithe as twigs on wet tamarind leaves. Oxen get sold for gifts, fields die, kids starve.


Poetry Features - Shari Wagner

Smoke floods the fields. Bells peal. Sand like raw sugar blows from Gabon, burying creek and aqueduct alike, even agaves wither in tin-can gardens, and the women of Angel Hill make do with shortages more numerous than bristles on a pig. No meat today?

They grind plantain peels or pickle mop rags. No soap? I wait in darkness, sitting on an oxhide chair, smell of sinew, tallow. Cowrie shells augured exile. Few listened. Knees buckle, fingers claw my wrist. I lay him on a mattress stained by urine, wilted clippings of Fidel glued to bedposts. Stroke scarred hands, arms as if touch could heal a lifetime cutting cane in the sun.

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Brings cafecito, chicory coffee, tepid, bilgy water, raspy dregs. I swallow to be polite. One sepia print shows a girl switching a mule, Cuca at twelve, looking stern because teeth had grown crooked on the cobs. Tall as royal palms, smokestacks spew ghosts of the sugar harvest; dismembered, Soviet tractors rot in sheds, corrugated tin. Boys playing baseball chase me across the yucca thickets. On these rutted canefields I trip over pits of memory, red dust stinging my eyes, I the bearer of dollars, false promises.

Modernist Mythopoeia

Chirping, whistling--teeth like broken bottles-- Ofelia unknots legs, arms that danced high branches of el caucho , weeping wood. I tweeze the blow dart, whittled bird bone. I run away, hide under her iron bed. Ofelia slices. The eyes, rubied by fire, terrify me. Cinnamon aureoles prick my finger.

Ofelia pulls me, whimpering back to the chair. Her legs scissor me, arms constrict. This morning the cold sea-mist shrouds all of Lima; black vultures perch like gargoyles on rusted neon signs.

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They formed a line, passing around a furry bowie knife. Go back to Cuba, the chorus taunted. We hate the Spanish. Indigo snake coiled about his wrist, Marcus hissed, snarled, telling my father to kiss his ass. Stars and Stripes flying from car antennas, hate signs taped to windows, Anglos fled to rural Manatee and Osceola, some journeying as far north a Alachua, Apalachicola Bay, Blackwater River; and County Line Road, a strip of gravel and sticks, the new border dividing America from America.

How has your Latino background influenced who you are as a poet? Had the Cuban Revolution not taken place and thereafter succeeded in altering Cuba in the most extreme and sinister ways possible I am no apologist for the Castros , I would have been born in Cuba and been raised on that island. It was a fluke that an Eastern European man, an Ashkenazi Jew who had somehow escaped the Holocaust and settled in Lima, Peru, but who loved traveling to Havana for reasons I do not know, proposed to my father, an upholsterer by trade apparently they had met at some bar in Havana , that he manage his newly opened furniture factory in Lima.

The year was My father and mother had just gotten married. After leaving for Lima, my mother followed him, already pregnant with me, so I was conceived in Havana and then born in Lima. My parents did not adjust well to Lima: its climate, its culture, its history, etc. Therefore, we returned to Cuba in , and I was baptized in Varadero. Soon after my father started his own furniture business, and in just a few years amassed quite a fortune, so we ended up being rather privileged in this South American city.


My sister, my brother, and I studied in a British academy. We lived in a chalet in the suburbs. We traveled to Europe. The year was , and I was ten years old. History would judge them right. Though my father had managed to take out of Peru a good chunk of money, bad investments, bad decisions, and just plain bad luck would result by in near bankruptcy. My father went from prosperous businessman to being the owner of a small workshop in Hialeah making kitchen cabinets.

The Twilight of the Gods

My father and mother divorced, and I was on my own by age You might say that my family went from rags to riches and then back to rags. I think it is important for readers to know my trajectory through these different countries, in particular because my poems and short stories at least until now have been so preoccupied with investigating the complex relationship between place and culture, place and history, place and memory. I prefer not to use the term Latino to fully define my family heritage or family culture. Being specific about place and culture is more accurate, I believe. Because of our current national discourse on identity, Latino is unfortunately much too generic, much too overextended, much too circumscribed by politics.

We need to think of Latinos as a large and complex family of cultures, languages, and peoples in which unity and difference should be equally celebrated. Now let us talk of my own particular family. Although my parents were born in Cuba, their fathers were immigrants from Spain who ended up marrying Cuban women.

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I was thus raised with Spanish customs, Spanish mores, Spanish foods. So we had a strong and unbreakable connection to Spain as the Mother Country.