Saturday, July 14, 2007
"An Evening With Sandra Cisneros"
She was tiny, looked nervous. For her appearance at the San Francisco bookstore, she wore a short-sleeve, skin-tight, shortest of shorts, black mini dress. Her hair, cut almost to the scalp, was a disappointment. I had been looking forward to the Cisneros who appeared on the cover of her book My Wicked, Wicked Ways, where she wore only very, very long hair and a pair of boots.
This "wicked,wicked” woman kept us waiting while she picked lint, real and imaginary, from her dress. Slowly she concentrated on placing a watch on her left wrist. But when she finally faced her audience, smiling, the fun began.
She started by saying she had traveled throughout the world. She had lived in several countries of South and Central America and in Europe. She had been back in the United States for three years, before coming to California. And at the moment she lived in Berkeley where she was teaching at the University. Some of her students had come to hear her read, and they applauded enthusiastically.
She told us she had written her book of poems So Many Things Frighten Us while living in San Cristobal, Chile. She wrote it in both Spanish and English:
"Frightens us/The infinite Goddesses/that always were and always will be/What frightens us most? to be alone/or to be always with someone?"
When she said Ass in another poem loud laughter filled the bookstore. Then she took a postcard from a nearby rack and waved it in a semicircular movement saying, "visual aid." The postcard showed the backs of two persons, arms around each other, wearing leather jackets. Their butts, however, were naked. She read: "Sometimes a woman/needs a man who loves her ass ..."
Her poems continued to heat up. The temperature in the store was reaching red-hot levels. Everyone was hanging on her every word. Accompanied by exclamations and whistles we laughed out loud again. She came to the end of her repertoire. We gave her with sonorous applause. She thanked us and joked with her students, promising an A to those who had come to listen to her. But at that moment they didn't look like they were worried about grades. They looked transfigured, their eyes bright, enlarged. Their cheeks flushed. Without doubt they dreamed of a moment when they could write like Sandra Cisneros.
Always smiling, she directed her attention to the long line that had formed in front of her. I rushed to buy one of her books, The House on Mango Street, and carried by the same enthusiasm joined them to have it autographed while mentally revising the current story I was writing, Oh, I was energized!
Cisneros was very warm and with candor and generosity gave me the information I asked for, Where to submit my stories? Write for grants?
Yes, yes. Write to this organization and this one. And take my phone number in case you need me. She actually said that.
Thank you. A thousand thank yous Sandra.
Camincha is a San Francisco-based writer.