“Now that my past is longer than my future, / I feel a diminishment inside my body. / Like in an overcoat, my arms are lost in the vastness of its sleeves.” In “Remembrance,” Frank Varela poignantly writes about the longing for loved ones—Aunt Consuelo, Doña Simona, Don Benacio—who are all spirits now. He hears them gossiping in the kitchen, sipping coffee and eating pastries. Their ghosts are a comfort, he writes, “So why then do their faces / blur in my memory?”
In this collection of 55 poems, Varela writes about growing up Puerto Rican in Brooklyn, noting that there are two types of Puerto Ricans: “those born on the island, / others like me, / the children of exiles.” Pondering the universal sentiment of immigrant children, he notes that he was considered a spic in the United States and a gringo in the land of his parent’s birth. “All I wanted was the impossible: / To be the who I am in a land / unafraid of the me I have become.”
Like his grandfather who cleared ten acres in Cibuco, Puerto Rico, “to wrench subsistence from red clay,” Varela loves the land and what it provides. “The land is rich with decay and past seasons. / On my best days, I can reach into the soil / and marry my soul with the green world— / tarragon, escarole, lemon balm, sage.” Expressing love and appreciation for his Puerto Rican family and culture, Varela’s poems reflect on the universal joys and pains of everyday life. This collection contains a mix of previously published and new poems that offers a survey of the poet’s work from 1988 to the present.