How does a child learn to pluck the flower, to separate its body from its body…?”, this week in our series This Work Will Take Dancing highlighting poetry from Latinx writers in the U.S. South, two searing and stunning poems: “Election” by Emily Perez and “What Was the Passion Fruit Called Before Europeans Renamed It” by Aline Mello investigate how language can both illuminate and obscure the structures of violence we find ourselves living within. “We did not see him / light the match or launch the drones,” writes Perez. May poetry continue to be a tool for naming what we need to fortify our collective survival and understanding in this time.
Read more from 'This Work Will Take Dancing' here.
That was the year we gave keys
to the toddler and matches and
a loaded gun. We didn’t think he’d
kill the dog so soon though
he’d promised Doggy Dead,
Doggy Gone, so many nights
before his bedtime. In those days
we trusted. Family first. It didn’t
matter who was qualified or even
over five, did not matter who’d
been breast or formula fed, who
could use a spoon or fork,
who had read the Geneva accords.
We liked his bright blue eyes.
He reminded us of us, and when
he raged we soothed him. We gave him
all our passwords. He lulled us
with his tantrums. We did not hear him pop
the childproof caps. We did not see him
light the match or launch the drones.
We wondered why he poured
the gasoline around our home.
What was the Passion Fruit Called Before the Europeans Renamed it?
Before the Christians saw their lord
in its flower, a clock in its tendrils?
How did the natives see the plant’s wild curls,
hard petals, little hammers stretching?
How does a child learn to pluck the flower,
to separate its body from its body
sitting cross-legged in the dirt
waiting for her mother to call her in?
When does a child, waiting for her father,
come to know that when she pulls
the blossom’s ten petals
her counting will start with “he loves me”
and always end with “loves me not”?