Dulce Maria Menendez is an accomplished painter and poet. Her poems are a force of writing. Her work defies all that is cynical in poetry by showing a passion larger than we are, as if she carves a figure of feeling out of the stone of language. She exceeds courage as we know it, to find the limits of truth - then she says it -clearly and beautifully. - Grace Cavalieri
Didi Menendez (Dulce Maria) is an American publisher and artist. Her publications include PoetsArtists, iARTistas and other literary what nots including full length books, broadsides, video and audio. Recognized by the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry among other anthologies, she has published from USA Poet laureates and Pulitzer Prize winning authors to the unknown, underground and never to be heard from again poets. When she is not publishing, she is putzing around on the internet figuring out what to publish next or taking care of her teenagers or walking Petunia.
June 15, 1962
by Didi Menendez
We brought the scent of violets in our hair.
The cafe con leche still dangling on our tongues.
Two suitcases filled with only clothes.
A wedding dress.
Baby clothes, baptismal outfit, a pink blanket.
My father wore his best suit.
My mother, her latest dress.
My sister and I in our Sunday best.
New shoes on our feet.
As if we were headed to a fiesta.
We left behind the wedding rings on the dresser
along with the other jewelry.
The same dresser mi abuelo the carpenter had made as a gift
from the same design he had made for Batista's bedroom.
The rings that were from the Jewelry store my other grandfather owned.
The store as well as the property on the beach which was taken
the year before.
We left abuelos behind as well later to be claimed by us.
We could only claim our own.
The elderly great-aunts did not want to leave.
They said this crazy business would end soon.
We left them our pets to take care and our dog Mancha
as she barked one last time as if to protest the Revolution.
We arrived with hope although we knew
we would never return to that same place
on Goss 183, Santo Suarez, la Habana.
I mean, it just occurred to me,
who packs a wedding dress
if they have plans to return?
My parents only remembered from that day on
what was left behind. Nothing that came after
June 15, 1962 was ever as good.
My sister and I
we only remember life
starting on that day.
by Didi Menendez
The road we take leads to our demise.
Look at this road I travel on every Sunday.
I pass rows and rows of tall green corn
alongside the purple majesty flowers.
It is such a different road and so far away
from the road we thought we were following
that morning we left Havana.
My mother is waiting in the distant
hallway, small in stature compared to the
woman who used to take me by the hand
whenever we crossed roads.
Every Sunday I ask her the same question.
Mami tu sabes quien soy yo?
She doesn't answer so I ask
her again as if she did not hear me
the first time or the second or third time.
Once I feel my eyes starting to swell, I stop.
My mother's eyes are green pools of oceans
swam now replaced by roads of rows and
rows of green corn fields without the sting
of salt in the air. Yet it is the same clear
blue sky blanket that covered us when we
left for liberty. My mother's eyes in silence
tell me who I am every Sunday.
We are still refugees.
She to Alzheimer's and
me to continually asking myself
who I am.
My Father Sat At Night
by Didi Menendez
My father sat at night with no lights on - Carly Simon
My father sat at night with no lights on.
His cigar smoke filled the room.
His perspiration from working the pawn
shop in Downtown Miami sank into
the leather of the Lazy Boy.
After school the next day I'd sit in the lighted
sunny room and listen to the White Album
over and over again as the record revolved
the room became dark and I'd sit there
with no lights on too. The left over smoke
and perspiration from the leather stuck
to my bare arms as my father
returned to his chair.
My mother sat in the dark with the
light of the sewing machine on. In the morning
she'd still be there while dust of clothes
filled the little room. The sunlight coming
through from the venetian blinds danced
along with the hum of the machine. We'd breathe
in the threads while my sister took out our dolls.
My mother continued to press on the pedal
of the sewing machine long into the night
while listening to the little AM radio station
as our Barbie lay naked on the cold granite floor.
Painting Linh Dinh
by Didi Menendez
There are two Linh's
and you must paint both.
There is canvas on a roll.
It is the last of your canvas
and you must use the last of the roll.
There is gesso and there is duct tape.
You must gesso.
You must duct tape.
If you have gold fish you must attend
to your gold fish first. I have turtles.
I cleaned the tank.
If you have cats you must clean the litter box.
I have dogs.
I fed them.
There is a song.
You listen to it a few times while you flip
Linh on your laptop and change him to sepia.
You crop Linh Dinh.
You study the shadow on his nose.
You listen to John sing about the girl
that once had him.
You start to think about what defines you.
You forget about Linh and listen.
You are holding rubber souls in your five year old hands.
The TV has Walter Cronkite solemn face staring back at you.
The four long haired boys are in the news again and so are
other boys dressed in green. Everyone has a helmet for
a haircut. The four boys are bouncing up and down
while HELP is playing from the black and white television
as a Vietnamese little girl runs down the street yelling for HELP.
Your father is pacing.
Your mother is pretty.
She puts on her lipstick and hands
you an OREO cookie. Your tongue is licking the cream
while Walter Cronkite is telling us "that is the way it is".
Your parents leave the room and you switch to Mighty Mouse
and Bullwinkle. Your uncle is in High School.
It is his Rubber Soul you took out of the sleeve.
Oh no! Your cookie crumb fingers have smeared the vinyl.
You are worried he will be angry.
You are worried he will be one of the boys in the news soon.
You finish your cookie and go back to your 64 crayons
and paint a blue sky over the words, HELP.
© Dulce Maria Menendez, all rights reserved
Note: Grace Cavalieri also featured Didi Menendez in 2017: Didi Menendez featured in July, 2017