Red Earth

Beth Brown Preston


My voice speaks to you in Spanish,
An entire conversation, all the words in that language I know.
It is a sin not to remember deaths.
These poets now are dead: Gabriela Mistral, Silvina Ocampo,
Winett de Rokha, Yolanda Bedregal de Conitzer,
Claudia Lars, Carmen Alicia Cadilla.
Sisters whose eyes have closed with impatience, delirium.
These poets were taken from you and me,
Sent down into black tunnels of despair,
Became insomniac angels hovering over others’ dreams,
Over cloisters, over fields where cows wander.
It was impossible to carry enough light into their rooms,
The illumination of their ache and wonder.
I loved their faces, women poets,
Reeling with knowledge of sensuality,
Their medusa hair, ends of verse dangling, dangling.
What is this light that speaks from the terror of the past?
I am pulled backward, as a half-sunken fishing boat,
Moored with my rope to the sagging wooden dock.
A young boy swims beside me in the lake on fire with sunset.
The earth is red and good.
The red earth cradles him in its womb of yearning and blood.
The boy is rescued by sense and sound. Perhaps, the end
Is in this line of angels defining manhood and womanhood.
All I now know is defensive, horrible.


Beth Brown Preston is a published poet, essayist, novelist, and memoirist with two previous poetry collections: Lightyears: 1973-1976 and Satin Tunnels. Her poetry has appeared in the pages of the African American Review, Callaloo, Goddard Review, Obsidian, Open Minds Quarterly, Painted Bride Quarterly, Pennsylvania Review, and other literary and scholarly venues.