A “Neruda on the Park” Praise Song
I was 22 when my tears first learned to harden in my eyes. A daughter of Africa, Virginia and Newark, I found myself closest to what I would call home in a hospital along the Artibonite River. There I lay on a bed near a wall in a large room curling myself around 7 pounds of daughter cells. This tiny life had managed to survive my body, our birth and just across the room was a woman who was still rocking back and forth over her stillborn. A baby she knew had died some time ago but was forced to birth. That was 25 years ago – almost to the day and I still send her my silent prayers every October 1st. That day my tears taught themselves to hush up. It took a lifetime for me to find the water’s edge again and give myself permission to wade into it without losing myself. I walked with you in this book.
Every disappointment, awakening, and swipe for meaning you took – I took with you. I fell with you and hit my head on the ground of having done enough adapting, enough accepting, enough moving on in humility. When Cleyvis raised you up, she raised a part of me too. I wanted to come to the park and tell you I would help. I wanted to tell you that I know sometimes our planned messes seem so right because people deal us out the same planned messes and we keep making divine order. I know you. I know you made meals that tasted like home when they gave you a mess of groceries and cookware. I know you made Luz courageous when they gave you words like disadvantaged to describe her. I know you made the Tongues a chorus of faith and hope when they gave you a dirty garbage disposal of gossip and lies. I know you figured you would bless the mess one more time for the sake of your home and your sense of agency. But some messes refuse to accept blessings.
I wanted to come walk with you and tell you that our baby sisters would make a way. When mine reached for me from a hospital bed in Washington Heights, I raged in silence at how the world had made her feel so incredibly small and insignificant. I wanted to come clean with you and tell you to write Vladimir a poem of your own. I wanted to tell you about that one time when I went to see Ibrahim Ferrer with a man trying to love me the best he knew how. It was not enough but it was his best. Sometimes I slide my soul back to that music hall and hold the man’s hand for a few seconds before letting him go. Sometimes my soul doesn’t want to come back. Water’s edge again. I wanted to sit with you at the table and remind you of how we get lost in lovers sometimes. Especially when we are searching for us. I wanted to tell you that you made Luz of courage – not disadvantage; that your patience with her was right for how could she be, how could she have, how could she ever move in anything but light?
I couldn’t do any of these things I wanted. I could only keep reading your story and sending gratitude to whichever ancestors made sure I found you. I could only witness what was falling and what was flourishing. I could only thank Cleyvis for telling the world who you are. Maybe you’ll see those ancestors somewhere beyond the water’s edge. Thank them for me, will you? For this, for Gloria Naylor, for Sandra Cisneros, for Toni Morrison. This list would go on like those waves. Just thank the ancestors if you get a chance, please. Then look at them carefully and know you were loved. See how fiercely you were loved.