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Sample Poems by Marguerite Guzmán Bouvard


You gaze at the bush outside the window
of your tiny apartment, telling me
it throbs with birds, that it is winged
and filled with secret doors.
You soar with those birds
as they twitter among the branches.
You fly beyond the time of secret gatherings
under Batista when your life hung
in the balance and when you fled
the country you loved for the second time.
You fly above the long year
of your brother’s dying, above your grown children’s
sudden storms. You are sloughing off the skin
of discord and of the insignificant.
You are pared down now
to the blue waters of Varadero, the papayas
glistening in your father’s garden,
the poems by Ruben Dario where nothing
can be destroyed. Weightless,
you are what you were meant to be,
wrapped in wonder, your eyes
brimming with the unseen.

for Valeria Guzmán

Because she bought me books
when we had no money:
fairy tales from around the world,
astronomy books I took to her office
on Saturdays when I was only eight years old
and pretended I understood.
Because she took me to museums
when we had no money
and when we had a little more
she bought me a kiln
never minding when I scarred the rug.
Because she bought me books,
for Christmas, letting me choose
so I could learn my own lessons.
Because she let me be,
let me spend hours gazing
at the trees stitching earth and sky,
the mysteries unfolding from galaxies
of buds while she came home
from long days at work only to begin
again. Because she always kept the windows
open and never shut doors,
or tried to make me stay,
my mother is still there: her gentle voice,
her strong hands still guiding us all,
and also the trees, the maples’
jeweled arms in fall,
the elms inscribing their blue
calligraphy over snow,
the wonders spilling out
as she bent over her drawings
and her old singer sewing machine.


The slow, woozy drone of giant bumble bees
criss-crosses my open door.
They are ferrying nectar.
They are building nests and mating.
It is spring; rustle of wings,
ricochet of bird-calls,
they do not know the text
conquer and subdue,
only the web and litany
of the Creation; stamen, pistil,
hive, haven, putting by
for lean times. They whir intently
on their miniature engines,
circling above me. They mean
no harm. They do not poison the air.


The truck geared up and hauled off her calf
as if we had dominion.
Who is to say that only humans
can love? All night I heard the cow
bawling for her calf. All night
the cows huddled together, knowing
theirs would be next. Who was it that wrote,
the Great Chain of Being, a pyramid topped
by humans? Have you ever seen cows
burning and pillaging? They are devout: they read
the book of earth daily, tamping down ridges
in the highest mountains to make a path,
gathering beneath a lone tree
under high noon as they shudder off flies,
bearing the brunt of endurance under heavy rains.
They do not have to learn patience.
They are not lesser in God’s eyes.

My Grandmother’s Blanket

Rather than her diamond ring, her silver
filigree bracelet set with corals,
I cherish the blanket my grandmother
brought with her from Trieste.
When I make the bed, I love turning up the corner
of that soft camelhair where her initials
are sewn in, A.D for Anna Dejak, or Anno Domino,
my mother would quip. I still sleep
between her embroidered linen sheets,
part of that same trousseau.

Her maids stirred them clean with paddles
in tubs of boiling water
while Nana visited with her friend Maria
remembering their schooldays
at Sion in that sitting room
with parquet floors.

The blanket’s satin bindings
are long gone, the edges frayed.
I could sew on new ones, make it more
presentable, but it reminds me of how we live
and survive, ricocheting between chaos
and order, tears and ecstasy.

Nana not even thirty, a war widow
with a young child, moving into her father’s
house on Via Palladio, wearing black
for a year. Dark-eyed, with a manner
that could charm or cut
she turned her back to suitors,
loved only once.

Nana, alone in her apartment barely
two decades later, the German soldier
banging at her door and she
all height and dignity,
replying in flawless German,
“You have the wrong address.”