Invited Artist

Miriam Herrera
 is a graduate of the MA Program forWriters at the University of Illinois at Chicago Her poems have appeared in Albatross Earth’s Daughters New Millennium Writings Blue Mesa Review Nimrod New Zoo Poetry Review ArtLife and other journals She has taught writing at University of Illinois University of New Mexico and Russell Sage College in Troy NY Herrera’s enigmatic ancestry compels her writing As evidenced by her family’s uniquely hybrid practices and traditions it is likely they descend from cryptoJews or conversos from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas Their descendants intermarried with the Native Americans and old Christians that populated the American Southwest

Miriam’s first collection of poems Kaddish for Columbus was a finalist in the New Women’s Voices Chapbook Awards and has just been published by Finishing Line Press Some of Miriam’s poems can be found on her website at http://miriamherrerapoemsgooglepagescom

Kaddish For Columbus :

Prayer for 500 Years

M Miriam Herrera

Legend says that Columbus was a CryptoJew escaping Spain ’s Inquisition along with a boatload of illegal Marranos in hopes of settling in the New World

I believe in my animal twin:
Together we bellow and embrace
in the arms of darkened hills
winding above the Rio Grande
along the Sangres and Santa Fe up
to the Pajarito plateau

I believe in the air
at this elevation in its power
of redemption I believe
that by the grace of
some ineffable pronouncement I live
Not like some newcomer fish
thinblooded spitting out voiceless
sounds but with lungs and gills
of a newwrought beast easy
in water and sky

I believe in the rattlers’ sect
Tribes who shed skin for the sake of
divinity and accept as fate
to be steered by a blackbird’s tail

I meditate on the Boundless
on the Inspiration
that looks upon sundown’s ruddy expanse
and bestows commandments:
“Roll in river
mud inhale sage brush
build your houses round
clay red as the upper thigh
of a sunburned woman
Live! Live!”
(I trust in these words)

I believe that my Grandfather’s spirit
loose legged in khakis
still carries a rifle and hunting knife
north and south
along this same river valley
I believe in the hemisphere
where there are no borders no
papers required to prove his footsteps
on this land
for over five hundred years

(I consecrate to his memory the number 500)

I believe my grandfather
continues creating new sabbaths
when he looks in the river
at his rough holy image I believe
he’ll awaken my own
sleeping image with his type of
odd beauty:

Skin all at once the colors
of mountain snow of river mud
and adobe Hair like cornsilk
or the tail feathers of
a redtailed hawk and a soul
shiny and tempered
as the loot from Obsidian Ridge

I confess
My hallowed temples are
lands of dry heat that I’ve kept
sandy beds on too many continents just to
be caressed by this heat I forgive
my promiscuity my love
for each singular oddity
promising to give me a form
unlike my own

I reaffirm my vows to the desert
as I taste its salty mouth;
and now I know why
pilgrims and prisoners come here:
To wander through pincushion
gardens to see miles of
footprints in circles to be engulfed
by the flashfloods

I extol the amour of the cholla
saguaro beavertail horse crippler
spiny stars and cat claw
I worship the slowmoving hunters
greeneyed masters that see
what burrows below

I say Kaddish for Columbus
and forgive him I bless
his explorer blood cast within me
An alloy of iron nickel silver gold cobalt
moon and meteorite

I bless our ancient shaman
who changed him into a limping wolf
so that every year
he too makes the pilgrimage
with the Vietnam vets
with the lame the blind
the shattered of will
with the Penitente brothers
to Chimayo’s candlelit chapel
He too rakes with his paw
at the replenishing hole
for a taste of miraculous dirt
He too looks up with longing
at abandoned crutches
and metal braces
hanging on old adobe walls
Gray fur is his purgatory
but I believe that one day he will
find redemption

When the generations
of his heart
can sway genuflect
and sway
to the new humanity
his celestial navigations
have created?

I glorify the shadows of spirits at dusk
their aweful power
as they close in
flatout run on hoofs
toward a wandering soul
swept against a cliff
by the force of animal will

I swear this tiny soul remembers
its first summer holds
a breath under the breaking sky
reveres the blazes of pink purple gold
and covers its eyes
when a juniper bush
appears to catch fire

At dusk the earth’s veins
give up their color
to the Sangre
de Cristo mountains The hills
put on purple veils and bow
to the sky

Originally Published in Nimrod International Journal Vol 41 No 2