after Mario Benedetti I pick two from the low-lyingcrisper drawers of my fridge. Day mists through the window like citrus drizzle, as if the sunwere also thumbed through, peeled. It’s almost November again— clementine season.But honey lingers on morning light, and leaves refuse the wardrobechange, dangerous uncertainty of weather. I sit on the couch and openBenedetti’s poem, “Gajos.” It helps to think of the heart as a clementine. Of its shapeas torn into wedges. Only one remaining faithful to the bodythat ripens. He says of the heart that while all the other gajos suffer,flee, there is one that endures, stays for the panic. The balming.The recovery while ribs slacken their grip. I send the poem to my father back homein Puerto Rico, as I’ve grown accustomed to sharing my feelings with him through strangers’words. He responds that the poem is beautiful. And the three-dotted snakeof his typing reappears. ¿Tú tienes ese gajo aún? I feel for the rinds perchedon the couch beside me. He knows this question probes a fieldlong fallow. I leave the message seen and unanswered—place another sliver in my mouth.
“Clementines’” from TO LOVE AN ISLAND: by Ana Portnoy Brimmer.
Published by YesYes Books December 2021.
Copyright © 2021 by Ana Portnoy Brimmer.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Ana Portnoy Brimmer is a poet and organizer from Puerto Rico. She holds a BA and an MA in English Literature from the University of Puerto Rico, and is an alumna of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Newark. To Love an Island, her debut poetry collection, was originally the winner of YesYes Books’ 2019 Vinyl 45 Chapbook Contest. She is currently working on the Spanish edition, forthcoming from La Impresora. Ana is the winner of the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest 2020, and was named one of Poets & Writers 2021 Debut Poets. Her work has been published in The Paris Review, Gulf Coast, Society and Space, Sixth Finch, Sx Salon, The Breakbeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT, Aftershocks of Disaster: Puerto Rico Before and After the Storm, among others. Ana is the daughter of Mexican-Jewish immigrants, resides in Puerto Rico and lives for bailoteo and revolution. Read more: http://anaportnoybrimmer.com/
"Ana Portnoy Brimmer’s To Love an Island is a vibrant debut full of melancholy and magic, rage and wonder, and a quaking irrepressible fire. Throughout it all, Portnoy Brimmer documents the interior realities of the Puerto Rican experience through the tragedies of disaster and colonialism but always with the abiding knowledge that someday it all goes back to water."
—Richard Georges, author of Epiphaneia and inaugural Virgin Islands Poet Laureate
"Press your ear to these poems. Hear their history, see what the poet conjures from the battlements of gasoline, matches, guttering light bulbs, machetes, murders, and the wings of hummingbirds. O Caribbean, your new poems are here, and they have so much to say. Escucha bien."
—Shivanee N. Ramlochan, author of Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting
"Ana Portnoy Brimmer’s poetry reckons with and does the careful work of what Anjelamaría Dávila called holding our 'solitudes in shared company.' To Love an Island moves through the collective trauma that follows devastation, the intimacy of shared grief in the face of settler colonialism and displacement, and finally ends in a burst of protest. Portnoy’s voice is rich, meticulous, and backed by care networks. It translates the immediacy of loss into the urgent need for change, and in doing so opens a window to a different future for Puerto Rico."
—Raquel Salas Rivera, author of lo terciario/ the tertiary and antes que isla es volcán/ before island is volcano