Bethany Fajardo Howard

El Castillo

above the sea waves

watches the stout Castillo

built by Spanish hands

 

the ghosts of soldiers

long since passed are immortal

in its garitas

 

darkness of past years

is remembered in cells of

Torre Antigua

 

the vain elegance

of San Felipe’s kingly

might is carved in stone

 

today another

flag adorns its ancient heights

but time still has failed

 

for yet Boricuas

lean beneath the weight of White

as Tainos did

 

we all are crooks and

whores to you to tame whose flag

flies above the fort

 

our race and skin are

dangerous to kingly men

as conquistadors

 

for now your flag flies

on this fort built of fear and

hate of differences

 

this grand Castillo

formed from our deaths and tears you

celebrate with glee

 

it is your lasting

monument to centuries

of hypocrisy

 

so mark the gashes

on our isle’s peopled heart

from rough slaver’s whips

 

and hide your flag of

freedom from our shores that mocks

our hope for liberty

 

This poem is written with each verse as a single haiku poem.


The Birth of Taina

contorted limbs reach

towards the grey sky

and perch on stilts of legs

jutting from the rolling mist

 

rich green foliage garbs

the twisted body

and floats, drab and brown

onto the still murky water

that conceals the spidery feet of bark

 

these tortuous bodies of trees

once concealed the birth

of a Woman

as she rose from the silent depths

from the dark of the virgin water

 

glistening crystals sparkled on

her bronzed skin and cascaded down

her back when she emerged

like a New World Venus

out of the watery womb

of the Ocean joined

with the warm life from the Sun

 

unspoiled and unaffected

the Woman wrung her raven locks

and stepped forth on the land

a new people

of the mangrove coves

and the chattering rainforests

 

she left the mysterious dark lair

where she was birthed

by Mother Ocean

and greeted the Sun, her benevolent Father

his warm rays enveloped her form

and gave her knowledge, skill, and wit

to add to the strength and grace

given her by Mother Ocean

 

as the warm Sun and the blue Sea

met upon the shore to see

what their union had made

they were pleased with the Woman

and Mother Ocean called her

“Taina”


that’s our place

why are latinas

told we must marry

young and bear children

while our brothers

are told to become professionals

and earn the “big bucks”

 

our biological clocks are ticking

we are told

nothing but time bombs

waiting to explode

and end the venerable latin family line

with our thoughtlessness

 

learn to cook

and clean and take care

of everyone but ourselves

and be good wives and mothers

at home in the kitchen

all day

 

we work until our raven-locked

heads are sweaty and our hands rough

and our hearts burdened

with everyone else’s cares but ours

 

latinas are made for the home

after all

just household servants

unpaid caretakers

women of the harem

for other’s comfort and use

 

that’s our place

or so they say


the cove:  cinquain

I

high up

above the sea

flies the foamy salt spray

in airy flight by crying gulls

forlorn

II

grey wind

whips the soggy

clouds into misty walls

heavy with gentle, sobbing tears

of rain

III

pulsing

caps of white might

adorn the sea-green waves

as they wildly caress distant

land

IV

slender

sea grass dances

and ripples in the wind

beneath the gnarled Guayacán

tree grove

V

the cliffs

plunge to the sea

protecting a cove

from winds and stormy gales. this place

is calm.

VI

inside

a rocky crack

a tiny dragon sleeps

safe from the elements outside

the bay

VII

the sand

remains untouched

above the cove of calm

of Cabo Rojo, so flawless

and still

VIII

the light

watches over

the haven of red and

gold cliffs pierced by roots of Ceiba

giants

IX

bitter

storms still buffet

sea and land surrounding

the inlet where serenity

resides

X

the soul

of fleeting peace

haunts the lonely copse of

Cóbana Negra shrouding o’er

the cove


human

a tiny cage

rusting along its steely lattice

confines its quivering victim

 

the puppy cries

pitifully

for its mother

 

torn from her loving care

with yelps

 

only a criminal

could turn from those shrieks

without misty eyes

 

the floor is dirty

and cold

beneath her tiny paws

 

she cowers in a corner

her head hanging low

fearful of her captors

 

her inky hair

hangs

matted and frizzy

from lack of brushing

she trembles

as she thinks of that moment

 

the moment they dragged her

yelping

from her mother’s safe care

 

she remembers that look

of anger and horror

on her father’s face

as he struggled to stop those men

from taking her

 

the men who were supposed

to be guardians of justice

to protect young pups from just such

cruelty and deprivation

 

all her parents wanted

was freedom

and safety

 

a patch of grass to call

their own

away from all the violence and scarcity

 

she felt thirsty

it had been a while since her last meal

 

how could they keep her locked up like this?

no exercise

no fresh air

and no loving hand to touch her

 

it was simply outrageous!

PETA would be horrified

 

but every time she thought

she heard the welcome voice

come to rescue her

from all the abuse

and inhumane treatment

 

every time she hoped

those footsteps meant

a warm bed and full bowl of food

at a safe shelter somewhere

 

the figure always walked past her

lonely and afraid

cowering

in her little rusty cage

 

after all, she was no puppy

she was only

human


Matanzas: Cinquain

twisted

arms of bark coil

into the sapphire sky

and shade the sandy banks with their

sly grace

 

hoary

locks of moss

dangle from the branches

and swoosh in the wind as living

cobwebs

 

footprints

on the sandy

path beneath the aged oaks

lead to the seashore docked with ghosts

of ships

 

haunting

tramps of feet

echo across the sea

breaking a monk’s breathless drone

of God

 

humbly

stout Menéndez

kisses the bony hand

of the spectral friar and hoists

the cross

 

his men

all bright-eyed

white-washed shapes of Latin

birth bow before the rosary

held high

 

honor

to be gained

here at the Matanzas

for king and country sacrifice

is made

 

as from

the aged

rosary lined with rough

prayer chains drips the crimson blood of

Huguenots


Bethany Fajardo Howard writes from Knoxville, Tennessee where she is studying towards receiving her master’s degree in information sciences. She is only the second woman in her family to receive a graduate degree, after her sister who is studying to receive a doctorate in violin performance. She received her undergraduate degrees in English-Professional Writing and Violin Performance and currently works at a veterinary medicine library. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry as well as essays for mental wellness magazines. Also, she likes to keep up her violin skills by performing with community groups for concerts, weddings, funerals, and church functions. Of course, she also relishes any time she gets to spend relaxing with her partner and her silly cat, Ayra. In the future, Bethany would like to submit her poetry collection about her Hispanic heritage for publication.

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