Thursday, April 7, 2011


(Ana Castillo portrait by Margaret Randall)

I confess, I first checked out Ana Castillo’s poetry because I’d heard gossip that she had an affair with Cherrie Moraga. I still don’t know if the rumor is true, and I don’t care. My Father Was A Toltec blew me away, poem after poem. Here’s one that demonstrates her ability to use only a few sentences to paint a complete family biography and to make your blood boil.

c. 1968

Because she worked all week
away from home, gone from 5 to 5,
Saturdays she did the laundry,
pulling the wringer machine
to the kitchen sink, and hung
the clothes out on the line.
At night, we took it down and ironed.
Mine were his handkerchiefs and
boxer shorts. She did his work
pants (never worn on the street)
and shirts, pressed the collars
and cuffs, just so –
as he bathed,
donned the tailor-made silk suit
bought on her credit, had her
adjust the tie.

“How do I look?”
“Bien,” went on ironing.
That’s why he married her, a Mexican
woman, like his mother, not like
they were in Chicago, not like
the ones he was going out to meet.

© Ana Castillo, from “My Father Was A Toltec”, W.W. Norton & Co., 1995

No comments: