Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Riehlife Poem of the Day: Victor Hernandez Cruz “Problems with Hurricanes,” from “Maraca”

If you are going out
Beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.
---Victor Hernandez Cruz

mang14bj.jpg
Mango on Tree (USDA)

Click here to read an EXCELLENT interview with Victor Hernandeze Cruz on The Poetry Foundation site. Here are some excerpts of questions to whet your appetite:
You don’t write what many would call autobiographical lyric poems. Was this a conscious decision?
Well, the poetry’s not really mine. The poetry’s not really about myself, it’s all about my culture There are things I can extract from my personal life, but I use them as stepping-stones or a springboard toward other things.

Do you think it’s possible to write a good poem about anything? A doorknob . . . a sewer system . . . anything?
I stopped writing about things that just kind of pop out at random. The mind has to be edited....Literature has everything in it because literature is about life; it’s got to be about everything that’s within life, and nothing can be edited out of it. You can have a poem about shoestrings, or you can have a poem about Venus. Something very small and something very big, and in between, everything. Now, it’s up to the individual poet to use some discernment, some judgment, to be selective; and you begin to see how each poet and each writer has an area of concern.

Problems with Hurricanes
by Victor Hernandez Cruz
from Maraca: New and Selected Poems 1965-2000

A campesino looked at the air
and told me:
With hurricanes it’s not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I’ll tell you he said:
it’s the mangoes, avocados
Green plan
tains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying
Banana.

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
But
to suffer a mango smashing
your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
as a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don’t worry about the noise
Don’t worry about the water
Don’t worry about the wind—
If you are going out
Beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

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