Love Song in Two Tempos

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By: Nylda Dieppa

How can I pull outside of myself
This anguish of sharing with you who I am,
Where I’ve been,
How life has brought me to my knees?

It’s a matter of self-discipline, my mother used to say,
Of doing what you must, and doing it right.

But who am I but an open book
For you to pass by and ignore
Or worse yet,
Read and misinterpret?

It’s a matter of self-discipline, my mother used to say.
Of having faith, and doing what’s right.

It is not enough to make myself vulnerable
To your prejudices and your judgment:
I must find what makes you tremble
With my joy and terror, sweat and laughter.

It’s a matter of self-discipline, my mother used to say.
“My nerves, I put them in my pocket.”

I must recreate for you the sharp scent of the sea breeze
And the soft rustle of the palm fronds
And the insistence of the moist evening song
Of the tiny frog that dies away from its homeland
As it piteously chirps: “Coquí, coquí, coquí.”

It’s a matter of translation, I must say: “Coc-kee, coc-kee,
Coc-kee.” A sad, humid love song for my island.

I too was supposed to die many years ago When I left my sunny, windswept paradise
For this strange country with its strange customs,
Its busy isolation, and lonely independence.
But I put my grief in my pocket
And dutifully housewifed a large family.

Yet something in me was strong, young, beautiful
And it kept me alive when I should have died
Sad and lonely with the pain that strangles the throat When the beach is too far to touch,
The fragrant rainforest only a faint dream.

It’s a matter of self-discipline, my mother used to say. So I hid my grief in my pocket.

What keeps you alive, my dear friend,
And smelling sweet and singing?
What foreign-tasting country
Do you inhabit and survive in?

What’s inside that gives us courage to live in spite of life itself ?

Mami, mami, mami.



Nylda Dieppa is a Puerto Rican writer, poet, translator, and author of Alborada: A Poetic Memoir Across Cultures, a finalist in the Royal Palms Literary Awards competition. She is currently working at her Central Florida home on a memoir based on the life of her ancestors in Puerto Rico, titled Amada (Beloved).

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The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by La Respuesta magazine. We encourage dialogue, debate, and learning in order to forge stronger, healthier Boricua communities and to strengthen alliances across social difference.