Tuesday, July 10, 2007

my native costume

I'm a big Martin Espada fan but I especially like this poem because I actually have worn that outfit on multiple occasions in different combinations, so in some sense, it really is my "native costume". I guess that either means that 1) Martin Espada and I share a similar poetic sensibility growing out of our condition as educated Latinos struggling to navigate the cultural contradictions which are implicit in living and working in Anglo environments or 2) I still need help dressing myself.

My Native Costume

When you come to visit,
said a teacher
from the suburban school,
don’t forget to wear
your native costume.

But I’m a lawyer,
I said.
My native costume
is a pinstriped suit.

You know, the teacher said,
a Puerto Rican costume.

Like a guayabera?
The shirt? I said.
But it’s February.

The children want to see
a native costume,
the teacher said.

So I went
to the suburban school,
embroidered guayabera
short sleeved shirt
over a turtleneck,
and said, Look kids,
cultural adaptation.


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