Spanish Poem in Trenzas ~ Braids 2017
By Jorge D. H. Prosperi [English Version Follows With Overview]
Sentado a su rodilla ojos hacia su faz . . . mi lugar favorito.
Entre sus pechos . . . seguro . . . con su voz me abrazaba.
Viejas páginas arrugadas . . . tomos en sus manos.
Sagrados con el tiempo . . . hojas viejas . . . temas nuevos.
“¿Pronto mi amor?” . . . mi sonrisa daba entrada.
Cuentitos del gauchaje nativo . . . de chamigos . . . héroes todos.
De potros, Patagonia, y paisanaje . . . la familia dominaba.
Y leía . . . leía con tono y timbre . . . algunas veces paraba.
“¿Entiendes mi alma?” . . . mis ojos daban vuelta a la página.
Sin un día de enseñanza me enseñaba. Sin sabios designando letras.
Sin dominar lápiz ni pluma. Sin tareas ni pruebas.
Sin guardar rencor leía de mi destino. Que ayeres no esclavizan a mañanas.
Puro amor sin amargura. Lo que no fue suyo sería mío.
Antepasados siempre presente. Con estima los nombraba.
Entre lágrimas sus voces resucitaban. Y ya – otro abrazo fuerte sin saber por qué.
Y leía . . . “¡Esfuerzo y tu palabra son lo que cuenta! ¡Ser humano entre humanos!
¡Caminar alto y derecho contra el viento!” . . . “¿Comprendes alma mía?”
Y leía – a veces sin mirar las páginas. ¡Qué inteligente es mi mamá!
Sin leer leía. ¡Qué inteligente es mi mamá!
A puntos claves paraba. Ojos a ojos me contaba . . .
“¡Así es la vida mi querida vida!” Y otra vez me abrazaba.
A veces papá sonreía de lejos. ¿Qué sabía sin decir nada?
A veces se paraba con reverencia . . . mirándonos con ojos llenos.
“El fin querido mío!” . . . fines sin fin . . . de mañanas sin miedo.
De esperanza celebrada . . . de sabiduría internal y eternal.
Viejas páginas arrugadas. Sobreviven doctorados encuadrados.
Tomos en sus manos. Aguantando ayeres . . . ahora libre.
Hojas viejas . . . temas nuevos. Sagrados con el tiempo.
Resistiendo fines . . . todavía me lee.
“¿Pronto mi amor?”
“¡Sí mamá¡ . . . ¡Sí mundo! . . . ¡Sí vida!
How intelligent is my mother!
(English) in Trenzas ~ Braids 2017
Seated on her knee eyes toward her face . . . my favorite place.
Between her bosom . . . secured . . . with her voice she embraced me.
Old wrinkled pages . . . tomes in her hands.
Sacred with time . . . old pages . . . new themes.
“Ready my love?”. . . my smile gave entry.
Short stories of native gauchos . . . endearing friends . . . all heroes.
Of horses, Patagonia, and journeys . . . family dominated all.
And she would read . . . reading with tone and timbre . . . at times would pause.
“Do you understand my soul?” . . . my eyes would turn the page.
Without one day of schooling she taught. Without scholars designating letters. Without dominating pencil nor quill. Without homework nor tests.
Without rancor she would read of destiny. That yesterdays do not enslave tomorrows.
Pure love without bitterness. What was never hers would be mine.
Ancestors always present. Pausing with esteem upon naming them.
Among tears their voices resurrected. And yet another tight hug without knowing why.
And she would read . . . “Effort and your word are what matters! To be human among humans!
To walk tall and straight against the wind!” . . . “Do you understand my soul?”
And she would read . . . at times without looking at the pages! How intelligent is my mother!
Without reading she read. How intelligent is my mother!
At poignant points she would stop. Now eyes to eyes she would read . . .
“Such is life my dearest life!” And yet again another hug.
At times father would smile from afar. What did he know without saying? At times he would stand with reverence looking at us with eyes full.
“The end my dearest!” . . . endings without an end . . . of tomorrows without fear . . .
Of celebrated hope . . . of internal and eternal knowledge.
Old wrinkled pages outliving framed doctorates. Tomes in her hands.
Enduring yesterdays . . . now free.
Old pages . . . new themes. Sacred with time.
Resisting endings . . . she still reads to me.
“Ready my love?”
“Yes, mother!” . . . “Yes, world!” . . . “Yes, life!”
“¡Qué inteligente es mi mamá!”
By Jorge D. H. Prosperi
To read a book without knowing how to read is quite a feat. But this is what mothers did who were not formally educated and did not learn to read or write. The process of mothers reading to children without knowing how to read or write is called, “pretend reading.” The term differs from a toddler pretending to read with book in hand during pre-school years – a wonderful exercise for imagination and language building.
But “pretend reading” was also an educational intervention for mothers who did not formally learn to read but still used language to teach and instill values. “Pretend reading” is part of the oral tradition and experiential learning intersecting in order to teach heritage, traditions, family identity, respect for ancestors and elders, work ethic, skills and lessons on civility, decency, resiliency, humility, courage, discipline, justice and hope . . . lessons about life as life could and should be lived.
The words by the pretend readers imprinted mind, heart and spirit as they came from an authentic, credible and trusted voice. The love was raw and ever present.
Pretend reading differs from culture to culture. I can only speak to how my mother pretended to read to me and how that process influenced my life. Irma Rosa did not have opportunities to attend school. She was the 2nd eldest of 13 children – two had died before their first birthdays. This meant that her older sister, tia (aunt) Marga, and she were destined to care for and mentor the youngest, who perhaps would manage to at least begin formal schooling – at least for a few years. Irma Rosa was also raised to become a “criada”, meaning to serve others. Her destiny had been sealed from birth but she swore that this would not be the case for her “hijo (son).”
We tend to assume definitions of what it means to be literate – those who attend school marked by attendance, grades and diplomas. But there are other segments of humanity that because of their circumstances never experience such empowerment. Poverty, colonization, slavery, socio-economic oppression are but some of the historical reasons. But there are countless counter-historical unwritten tomes of the history of the world beyond chapters of wars, war heroes, politicians and industrial giants. The oral tradition became the books that were never written but left to family to pass on the counterstories.
Irma Rosa was my giant influence. It all began with “pretend reading” sessions on her lap as she would begin to pretend to read with excitement and passion. The protagonists were all family members. She spoke of them with love and respect. The book was made of gathered papers and only a prop. I remember my father listening to her with reverence, knowing what she was doing. My grandmother also understood what was taking place – heritage being passed on. I was the beneficiary of those wonderful stories as the love washed over me day after day, year after year. It was the most exciting time of the day as the sun set. Tomorrow would bring other stories about loving and being loved.
Pretend reading not only helped develop the cognitive domain because of the power of language, but the affective domain was also being nurtured and mentored – mind, heart and soul listening, believing, being imprinted. Self-worth, confidence, resiliency being instilled day day in, day out.
The pretend readers knew that young souls would require the strength – the capacity to withstand the forces of trauma from the outside world and resist the pathology of self- oppression.
Regardless of educational backgrounds, sharing life’s stories day after day with endearing eyes meeting, with frail hearts listening to lessons of life, was the gift of empowerment – the gift of strength to rise above degradation – the gift that no force could disgrace, steal or deprive.
Pretend readers were selfless because they loved beyond the present looking to a time they would not see but knowing that . . . “Que ayeres no esclavizan a mañanas“ (That yesterdays do not enslave tomorrows.)