A book that begins in the sea and ends in the air, and includes all the sadness, chaos, and triumph in between...
"El agua es vida y la inequívoca muerte siempre justa, la marea del espíritu y los caudales de la mente. El agua es la caricia suave con la que palpita la roca, el rayo que parte la montaña, es por eso que nuestras piernas, troncos orondos de agua viva, hacen nuestro camino entre caricias fundidas con la tierra y el reverberante futuro. "
"Water is life and inevitable death always fair, the tides of the spirit and the flow of the mind. Water is the smooth caress that makes the rock throb, the lightning bolt that parts the mountain. That is why our legs, trunks of living water, make our path between caresses melded with the earth and the resounding future."
Renowned poet Rossy Evelin Lima's new poetry anthology, Migrare Mutare (Migrate Mutate) examines two states of being that, while it takes place along the U.S.-Mexico border, can also be used to describe any major transition from an old life to a new one. The process of reinvention that she documents focuses largely on our relationship to time and memory. The searing and masterful "Tanto he perdido", where she addresses the expectation of assimilating to one's new surroundings, details the struggle to navigate our memories and our desires, as the narrator's new life chips away at her sense of place and self.
"¿Por qué no he perdido el acento?
Tanto he perdido.
Perdí el camino que me trajo,
el viento que me dio la espalda.
I’ve lost so much
digo en un idioma
que voy rumiando
por más de una década."
"Why haven’t you lost your accent?
asks a twiggy voice.
I keep speaking with my naïve tongue
with my earthy lips
chewing a language without swallowing.
Why haven’t I lost my accent?
I have lost so much.
I lost my way, the wind turned its back on me.
I’ve lost so much
I say in a language
that I keep on brooding over
for more than a decade."
No matter how much an immigrant holds on to their traditions and memories, time will inevitably begin to erase them, while replacing the memories with one's that are not only new in the life they are depicting, but also new in how they are expressed (English versus Spanish, in this example). In "A mi hermano" she pleads with her sibling that he not see her as a foreigner, that even in this new land, they still came from the same mother, from the same America, one without borders. A sense of melancholy permeates the "Migrare" section of the book, in order to make the reader understand that no matter what underlying motive one might have to leave their homeland, the decision is not a wholly happy or hopeful one. To reinvent oneself is a struggle, as well as an assault on the soul and the mind.
The "Mutare" section of the book takes the psychological strife of the first part, where the narrator is mostly depicted as afflicted by internal and external forces, and flips the notion on its head. "Mutare" replaces observations of nature and human confrontation with odes to various animals, some real and some mythical, as the narrator take control of their identity by becoming more than merely an immigrant, or a woman, or even a human being. In the book's second half, the narrator transcends memory, time, and identity to transform into the very essence of life. If the first half is marked by melancholy, the second is marked by triumph, such as in the powerful and bold "Jaguar":
"Quiero mi piel cubierta de tus manchas negras,
mapa que revela la unificación de mis cuerpos.
Diez navajas me regalas,
veintiocho dientes como navajas
y un hambre que reconozco cada día.
¿Desde qué edades existes en mi pecho?
Zurces mi espejo con mi sombra,
me alzas entre la podredumbre de mis paredes
para que las balas en el viento
no rasguen mi piel, tu piel.
Vamos de la mano por las calles
es mi única bandera."
"I want my skin covered with your black blots,
a map that revels the unification of my bodies.
You gift me with ten blades, twenty-eight teeth like blades and a hunger that I recognize each day.
How long have you existed in my chest?
You mend my mirror with my shadow,
you lift me from these weathering walls
so that the wind’s bullets
don’t scratch my skin, your skin.
Let’s go hand in hand through the streets,
my only flag."
Rossy Evelin Lima shows with "Migrare Mutare" a profound understanding of the human spirit and the universal journey of reinvention and self-control. Her book may be grounded in the realities of desert border communities, but its heart speaks to a higher power, a connection between the human and animal, the worldly and the divine, of wisdom that goes beyond even her lush and lyrical words.