MAP #76

Theme: 1999 Christina Sergeyevna Contest Winners

1. Third Place Winner - Sharon Becker of Northridge California

Mona Lisa with a Mustache

She always wondered if bleaching her teeth

would have helped. If her enamel

had been just this side of dazzling

would he have left a phone number

a ring, a teacup full of leaves she could read and read?

Had she not hesitated when he asked

to keep the lights on, not felt

that that her stomach could turn

a man on his heel, belt buckle

still undone? Should she have waxed

her upper lip, removed the shadow

she thought only she could see?

Were her feet not small enough?

Was her touch too light? Had he needed

to be punched down and prodded

like bread dough? Back in the old days

she thought, people would pull out

their own teeth or let them go to rot.

Pliers and thread

a drink or two for ambition

the paint brush later to put a shine on them

as if they had been plucked from oyster bellies.

Organic beads ready for stringing.

Molars are hard work. Perhaps she'll have leave them in.

Balance out the spaces along the strand

with found objects. Twigs and feathers and such.

© Sharon Becker

2. Second Place - Frank Pool of Austin

The Corridor of Memory

Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.

These shoes were made to endure, but not to last

this many years. The old leather sags into a softness

of animal origin. Wasn't it Einstein who said a physicist

should be a cobbler, one who should theorize at the last

while punching with his awl? What a Jewish science

that would make, humming in the shetl, smelling bread

baking in the ovens across the street, little gingerbread

people in there, philosophizing. I have seen the pictures,

still and moving, and wound my way in slow progress

through mostly silent crowds. The energy in a mass

of old leather sucks light from the white corridor. Brown

shoes, mostly, made for concrete streets and bare floors,

constructed for endurance in ghettos, in dim poverty--

yet the open-toed summer sandals, the girls' shoes,

the elegant ones, gleam a muted white in an expanding

universe of brown. The photos keep their sepia tones,

their cosmos of black and white, and black and white,

and brown shoes, and brown shirts, and black ashes

floating in the continuum of time. I have seen many

of these images before. But I can smell the shoes,

the reek of slaughtered cattle, fashioned for the feet

that walked this earth, our moral planet, coming now

to rest in their pairs, in their mountains of silence.

In every shoe, an emptiness, a man or woman or child

cut out, absent to the very last, to their Jewish souls.

© Frank Pool

3. First Place - Liliana Valenzuela of Austin

November 2, 1998, on the Eve of Becoming an American Citizen

Not me, not I

a gringa I would never be

gritos de "muera el imperialismo yanqui"

resonando en mi cabeza

yo, la Malinche,

"there is always me-search in research"

going full circle

me an American

a Mexican-American

a bona fide Chicana chayote-head

My life is here now

raising my bilingual chilpayates

married, metida hasta las chanclas

in this brave new world.

A binational

una Nutella bicolor

vainilla y chocolate

dual citizenship, at least,

los politicos en Mexico finally woke up

to us "raza" on this side of the border.

Welcome Paisano, Bienvenido Amigo,

hasta que se les prendió el foco, cabrones.

Ahora sí, pásenle, que su nopal está lleno de tunas.

Aquí en la frontera, en el no-man's-land,

mujer puente, mujer frontera, mujer Malinche.

Ahora sí, cuando me chiflen por la calle

me podrán decir "gringuita" y por primera vez

lo seré, una bolilla, una gabacha,

mis ojos azules y cabello rubio por fin

corresponderán a los estereotipos de la gente

"But you don't look Mexican..."

Enton's ¿qué parezco? ¿acaso tengo changos en la cara?

When I die, spread my ashes along the Rio Grande,

the Rio Bravo, where I once swam naked.

© Liliana Valenzuela