Gloria Vando is publisher of Helicon Nine Editions, a 35-year-old small press, which received the Governor’s Arts Award (KS). Her book Shadows & Supposes won the Poetry Society of America’s Di Castagnola Award and Latino Literary Hall of Fame’s Best Poetry Book of the Year. Her first book, Promesas: Geography of the Impossible won the Thorpe Menn Award, and, this year, Woven Voices, a three-generation book of poems by Anita Vélez-Mitchell (mother), Gloria Vando (daughter), and Anika Paris (granddaughter) is one of two finalists (poetry/multi-author category) for the 15th Annual International Latino Book Awards. Vando also received the first Kansas Arts Commission Poetry Fellowship; two Billee Murray Denny Prizes; River Styx International Poetry Award (Philip Levine, judge); and others. Her work is in magazines, texts, anthologies, has been adapted for the stage and presented at Lincoln Center and Off-Broadway, and is on the 2007 Grammy-nominated Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work 1888-2006.  She has served as a judge for the NEA and numerous State Arts Councils; is a contributing editor of the North American Review; cofounder of The Writers Place, a literary center in Kansas City; and now serves on the boards of the Venice Arts Council and Beyond Baroque.

 

My 90-year-old Father and my Husband Discuss Their Trips to the Moon

for Bill

On the balcony I hear my father
speak of craters, their depth, their breadth;
how he measured his lunar steps so as not to falter,

sidestepping their cavernous mouths to peer in,
his echo resounding in their hearts. 
He was on the moon’s good side, the one

that smiles and on occasion winks at earth.
With audible pride, he explains he was the lone
civilian on the mission. Yet he was happy to come home.

Yes, my husband says, it was wonderful for me too! 
Shepard led me by the hand around the rim
of Erathosthenes.My father laughs at the similarity

of the crater’s name to his own, Erasmus.
He is glad Bill understands him,
relieved someone else knows how desolate it can be

out there.  Not only desolate, Bill says,
putting an arm around my father’s frail shoulders,
I also know how lonely it can get.

 

From Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriqueña Poets Look at Their American Lives (Scapegoat Press, 2012).  First published in New Letters.

 

Bach’s Augmented Ninth

for Anika

In the bass line
of a piano piece
my daughter is learning
one hand at a time
I hear a familiar theme.

Cramped there
for contrapuntal purpose
it is to soar
generations later
over the Finnish landscape.

Leipzig is small, compact
a perfect cameo.
Finland remains untamed
untapped
augmented tenfold and
like Sibelius
reaching beyond invention.

 

From Shadows & Supposes (Arte Público Press).

 

The Fall

 

And yet another ode to fall and falling,
another tribute to October light,
to bushes burning in defiance of night,
to Monet, Seurat.  Ah, but not until

you’ve seen an Ozark autumn, not until
then can you understand the plight of Eve,
can you fathom passion, blasphemy.  
Apples red, ready, blur beside the sensuous

leaf about to fall.
                        Yes, she must have sensed
the beauty of the consequence—else why
bite into shame?  The promise of gold obscures
all reason, good intentions, God—luring

us into the daze of earthly glitter,
into the pyre (is that then what it’s all
about—gold and ashes?) into blazing
in a moment of orgasmic fury—

and dying, if only to create fire.

 

From Promesas: Geography of the Impossible (Arte Público Press)

 

Out of Sync

 

God gave the white man clocks,the Ghanaian time.
A Ghanaian saying

My watch is simple, black, its spastic
silver hands shove me through the day.

A gift from my husband who claims
I’m slow, straggling like a defiant sheep.

I’d rather think than eat, write than sleep,
I counter, and no matter how I rush,

I am Latina late.  He scowls.  Fumes. 
Wrings his hands. Paces the room.

Nails a railroad clock above my desk,
its face as round as Harpo’s, bloated

as W.C. Fields’s, clowns who lend me
levity when productivity and praise slow

down. Watch your step, scolds Moonface
every 60 seconds.  But I don’t want

to be confined to a glass cage, starting
and ending each day at the same place. 

I want to zigzag, tango, undulate, unfold,
have a jagged edge to my days (and nights)—

and every now and then, stop cold.

 

Published in Spillway Magazine, 2011 

 

Gloria Vando at Moonday Poetry

 

 

2013 Gloria Vando


 

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