"You Bring Out The Mexican In Me"
"You Bring Out The Mexican In Me"
by Sandra Cisneros
You bring out the Mexican in me.
The hunkered thick dark spiral.
The core of a heart howl.
The bitter bile.
The tequila l�ágrimas on Saturday all
through next weekend Sunday.
You are the one I'd let go the other loves for,
surrender my one-woman house.
Allow you red wine in bed,
even with my vintage lace linens.
You bring out the Dolores del Río in me.
The Mexican spitfire in me.
The raw navajas, glint and passion in me.
The raise Cain and dance with the rooster-footed devil in me.
The spangled sequin in me.
The eagle and serpent in me.
The mariachi trumpets of the blood in me.
The Aztec love of war in me.
The fierce obsidian of the tongue in me.
The berrinchuda, bien-cabrona in me.
The Pandora's curiosity in me.
The pre-Columbian death and destruction in me.
The rainforest disaster, nuclear threat in me.
The fear of fascists in me.
Yes, you do. Yes, you do.
You bring out the colonizer in me.
The holocaust of desire in me.
The Mexico City '85 earthquake in me.
The Popocatepetl/Ixtacc�huatl in me.
The tidal wave of recession in me.
The Agustí�n Lara hopeless romantic in me.
The barbacoa taquitos on Sunday in me.
The cover the mirrors with cloth in me.
Sweet twin. My wicked other,
I am the memory that circles your bed nights,
that tugs you taut as moon tugs ocean.
I claim you all mine,
arrogant as Manifest Destiny.
I want to rattle and rent you in two.
I want to defile you and raise hell.
I want to pull out the kitchen knives,
dull and sharp, and whisk the air with crosses.
Me sacas lo mexicana en mi,
like it or not, honey.
You bring out the Uled-Nayl in me.
The stand-back-white-bitch-in me.
The switchblade in the boot in me.
The Acapulco cliff diver in me.
The Flecha Roja mountain disaster in me.
The dengue fever in me.
The ¡Alarma! murderess in me.
I could kill in the name of you and think
it worth it. Brandish a fork and terrorize rivals,
female and male, who loiter and look at you,
languid in you light. Oh,
I am evil. I am the filth goddess Tlazolt�otl.
I am the swallower of sins.
The lust goddess without guilt.
The delicious debauchery. You bring out
the primordial exquisiteness in me.
The nasty obsession in me.
The corporal and venial sin in me.
The original transgression in me.
Red ocher. Yellow ocher. Indigo. Cochineal.
Pi��n. Copal. Sweetgrass. Myrrh.
All you saints, blessed and terrible,
Virgen de Guadalupe, diosa Coatlicue,
I invoke you.
Quiero ser tuya. Only yours. Only you.
Quiero amarte. Aarte. Amarrarte.
Love the way a Mexican woman loves. Let
me show you. Love the only way I know how.
This time around, I'm sharing a poem by one of my favourite writers. Cisneros is a Mexican-American feminist poet and author, and this is from her 1994 poetry collection, Loose Woman.
It's a steamy, sexy, sensuous love poem -- and you can almost hear a celebratory parade in the background (or maybe that's only because I'm listening to baila right now). You can hear Cisneros reading her poem here. I'm unable to open the link myself, but maybe you can.
The basic structure of "You Bring Out The Mexican In Me" is that it's a list poem, a long reel of place names on a map of the interior, if you will. From the grandiose -- tragedies, heroines, legends -- to the personal -- tequila tears and single womanhood -- a whole plethora of memories emerges. Her lover has teased all of this out of her. He has made it possible for her to reach these previously esoteric parts of herself. She is all things -- the pre-Columbian, the colonizer, the colonized, the immigrant, the second-generation Chicana. And with sass and with tenderness, this is her response. It's a grand, horns-blaring kind of poem, but under it all, even during its most audaciously in-your-face moments, is a pervasive sense of awe and quiet gratitude -- hers is the kind of lover who restores her soul, smoothes over the scarring of life between cultures, repairs the fractures of her past. He brings out the Mexican in her -- he brings out her deepest knowledge, and deepest secrets.
"You", she says. You. Thus it's intimate. Who is this lover? Who or what provokes Cisneros thus? Does s/he exist? Perhaps it doesn't matter -- she needs the Mexican in her, with all its roaring glory and its hideous grief.
I am immensely influenced by Cisneros' work because to me, she's one of the few writers I've encountered who are able to successfully juxtapose a supposedly exotic identity with the supposedly more profane language of her expression. She navigates this interface with such skill -- and more importantly by far -- such sincerity, which is why she can offer up the most succulent exoticism there is and never once seem contrived or pandering to Orientalist tastes. And I applaud Cisneros for avoiding the use of a glossary, that most tell-tale of "exotic" devices, as doing so speaks volumes about the nature of her craft. In the case of this poem, I personally also feel it's unnecessary, because the spirit of the work shines nonetheless.
And speaking of influences, I've read some "after" poems based on this one (e.g. "You Bring Out The Klang Valleyite In Me"). Here's a suggestion to anyone who wants to take it up: if you like this, why don't we write our own after poems modelled on its structure and its soul, and share them, perhaps at the Puisy-Poesy reading? A few examples I found on the web are here (by a performance poet called Bao Phi -- this one's amazing), here (scroll all the way down) and here (this one's by a 6th-grader!). On that note, I'd also like to open up the floor again on the subject of Puisi-Poesy readings (or, if that's too intimidating, gatherings)... what are your thoughts? Would be great to hear from non-contributors especially.