the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

Ugly Poem

I will not write about our bodies in the gray dawn, calm and awake as
    trees. I will not mention the tremendous thing that happened in the
    sky as the sun was rising.

I will write about the nice middle class neighborhood all up in arms
    because fifteen Mexicans have moved into the Morgan house. A house
    needs one bedroom

for every two people, so that the neighbors can sleep comfortably. I
    will tell about the new Wal-Mart going up across from the old one
    that’s too small, about

the yanqui sweatshops in Tijuana where you get three dollars a day and
    fired for being pregnant. I will tell you about crawling for three nights
    across the hills.

between searchlights, hearing someone fall over the edge in the dark and
    thanking God it wasn’t you. I will talk about tires slashed as if they
    were sugar cane, forests

slashed as if they were sugar cane, jobs slashed because they are sugar
    cane. Since this is an ugly poem, I will not tell you about César
    whispering in my ear in

the hall, “Maestra, thank you for saying something to me in Spanish,”
    or the steaming moles from his mother that show up on my desk and
    doorstep. Instead, I

will tell you what I think when he turns: Be very careful, César, I may be
    your worst enemy
. I take your hand and show you kindly to the room of
    forgetfulness, where

you will hate Spanish, the memory of your abuelita’s farm, and your very
    own name. In this poem I will not say that the tongue is a deep muscle

directly to the emotions. I will say nothing of the blossoms on my African
    violet, their deep purple like the sound of bells. Instead I will tell of
    fluent tongues

extracted gently, like slivers, from the trembling mouth, of days of rage,
    when like my mother, I can’t stop crying or chopping onions, when
    living is facing a great

white wall, tongue parched, ears ringing, the glare in your open eyes.

–Carmen Horst ’94

Carmen Horst published a book of poetry in Spanish and English through Pinchpenny Press, like the cicada/como la cigarra, and edited an anthology of Broadsides at GC. Now seeking a master’s degree in Christian spirituality at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Horst previously studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received the George B. Hill 2000 Poetry Prize from the school’s creative writing program.