Por un instante están los nombres habitados
—Octavio Paz, “Semilla para un himno”
When the island is starved for a hymn,
this land of bougainvillea, illegible graves, and car dealerships,
where eating has usurped the offices of sex,
where sun is oppressively silent and rain everywhere gossips,
as the ear remembers one musical phrase, we clutch our name,
given by a long dead mother, harnessed by a hardworking father,
and agonize over eating our name
or planting it in the soil.
We look over the wall to see what our neighbors do.
Their garden is smooth like a piece of paper.
They look as hungry as yesterday.
When they ask us pleasantly, “Have you eaten yet?” they sound obscene.
Shall we eat it? We are so hungry.
It will recall the satisfactions of lying with a woman or a man.
No! We must plant it.
But what if our name has grown too old to grow?
The bougainvillea puts out pink and purple flowers, paper-thin.
The graves settle back with defeat.
The cars exchange hands like trophies.
The sun is silent oppressively and the rain gossips everywhere.