Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Poem That Accompanies "Sister Mysteries"

Several years ago I came across a poem that reminded me of the story I was trying to write in my novel, Sister Mysteries -
which will be published in a matter of weeks. When I tried to research where the poem first appeared, in order to get permission to use it in the book, I found out, sadly, that the author, Judith Ortiz Cofer (who was my age), had passed away in December of 2016. I called her publisher, the University of Georgia Press, but they couldn't tell me if the poem was in one of the books they had published for her.
On a whim, I did a Google search to see if I could locate her husband, John Cofer. I found his address in Georgia and wrote to him. He was most gracious -- and still heartbroken over the death of his beloved wife.
Mr. Cofer, who handles Ms. Ortiz Cofer's  literary estate, gave me permission to use the poem, and I present  it here. She did in 144 words what it took me about 95,000 in the book.

By Judith Ortiz Cofer

A sloe-eyed dark woman shadows me.
In the mornings she sings
Spanish love songs in a high
falsetto filling my shower stall
with echoes.
She is by my side
in front of the mirror as I slip
into my tailored skirt and she
into her red cotton dress.
She shakes out her black mane as I
run a comb through my close-cropped cap.
Her mouth is like a red bull’s eye
daring me.
Everywhere I go I must
make room for her: she crowds me
in elevators where others wonder
at all the space I need.
At night her weight tips my bed, and
it is her wild dreams that run rampant
through my head exhausting me. Her heartbeats,
like dozens of spiders carrying the poison
of her restlessness over the small
distance that separates us,
drag their countless legs
over my bare flesh.

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