By Norma Liliana Valdez:
Everything is happening now. Everything is present tense. The horses. The running.
The losing. This operation is a well-oiled machine. All is slow motion until dusk. After
dusk come the icy furrows. Overnight temperatures the kind of cold that enters marrow.
There is so much winter in the eyes. From here the only lights: the moon and Chula
Vista. After the ice, the running. Ravine. Huizache. Thorns. The hiding. A Cadillac.
There is a gun in the glove compartment. There are two boys in the trunk. Two other
boys contort their bodies on the back seat floor, legs entwined. Face down. Face down.
He is the one balled on the front passenger floor because he is the smallest. He is bones
every breath you exhaled
a blanket of hosannas
each hand like prayer, like
you were night, naked
shoulders in moonlight
I lost my breath
beneath your gravity
your touch slid along the arc
of every whisper
I inhaled greedily
filled every room
filled every empty space
inside of me
you must have known my anthem
when you left
urgent as an animal
“Unaccompanied” was the poetry winner of the 2015 San Miguel Writers’ Conference Writing Contest, and “Hummingbird” is an original feature on the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be. Both poems appear here today with permission from the poet.
Norma Liliana Valdez is an alumna of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop, the Writing Program at UC Berkeley Extension, and a 2014 Hedgebrook writer-in-residence. Her poems have appeared in Calyx Journal, The Acentos Review, As It Ought To Be, La Bloga, and Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop. She is the poetry winner of the 2015 San Miguel Writers’ Conference Writing Contest. Additional work is forthcoming in Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology by University of Arizona Press. She lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Editor’s Note: Over the years Norma Liliana Valdez’s writing has grown much in the way bougainvillea grows. Along earth-toned buildings in warm places. A steady, fertile spread erupting in vibrant blossoms. Like the sight of bright and blooming bougainvillea, today’s poems take my breath away.
“Unaccompanied,” winner of the 2015 San Miguel Writers’ Conference Writing Contest in poetry, is a work of art. The title is evocative, deftly making its mark. The narrative envelopes us in a gripping and heart-wrenching tale that speaks as much to the experience of the few as to the dreams and suffering of the masses. This work is vocal, political, and brave. Brimming with stunning lyric, we feel “the kind of cold that enters marrow,” see how “there is so much winter in the eyes,” and are left with what reads like a told fortune: “He is bones / and destiny.”
While “Unaccompanied” is yin-like—covert and treacherous—”Hummingbird” is like the yang—in relief, open, belonging to this world. The energy is sensual and intense, with “each hand like prayer.” And while both poems end spectacularly, “Hummingbird” is volta-like in its finale, confessing that “you must have known my anthem / when you left / urgent as an animal.”
This is the poet’s third Saturday Poetry Series feature. Three is a sacred number. The Holy Trinity. Maiden, Mother, Crone. The Triple Bodhi. The Trimurti. Which is fitting, as the poet divines poems that are alchemical. Spiritual. Faithfully wrought and nearly religious in their lyricism. Evocative of a humanity made palpable through poetry.
Want to read more by Norma Liliana Valdez?
Saturday Poetry Series feature, As It Ought To Be, 2011
Saturday Poetry Series feature, As It Ought To Be, 2010
Winners of the 2015 San Miguel Writers’ Conference Writing Contest
The Acentos Review