Saturday, 24 July 2021

American Life in Poetry: If I Die in Juárez

Ted Kooser. Photo credit: UNL Publications and Photography.

Sasha Pimentel’s poem is a splendid example of the poetic device called the conceit, which refers to an extended metaphor, and of course, the image here is the violin.

Yet the title of the poem is taken from Arizonan Stella Pope Duarte’s novel about violence against women set in Juárez, the Mexican border-city, which makes this image of a silenced instrument quite haunting and unsettling.

If I Die in Juárez
By Sasha Pimentel
The violins in our home are emptied
of sound, strings stilled, missing
fingers. This one can bring a woman down
to her knees, just to hear again
its voice, thick as a callus
from the wooden belly. This one’s strings
are broken. And another, open,
is a mouth. I want to kiss
them as I hurt to be kissed, ruin
their brittle necks in the husk of my palm,
my fingers across the bridge, pressing
chord into chord, that delicate protest—:
my tongue rowing the frets, and our throats high
from the silences of keeping.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Sasha Pimentel, “If I Die in Juárez” from For Want of Water (Beacon Press, 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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