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poem: Be Recorder

from our poet of the month: Carmen Giménez Smith

Face with cracked mud


"I leave behind dignity / so the angel inside me / stays behind me too"

(excerpt from) BE RECORDER

I’d once have left
brown behind
having already
left the tribe behind
and her tongue
and the garb that made me
theirs behind because it felt
like leaving hoi polloi behind
to finally put behind the chola
in my mother’s tongue
lingering in quiet deep vowels
behind meant I could leave
behind inferiority complex
not really but in theory

I tried to leave my eden-dreams
behind but they stuck to my shoe

because of my anarchic spirit
I leave behind dignity
so the angel inside me
stays behind me too
along with my poison pen

never mind I’ll need that

anger was my primary breathing
apparatus for so long
what a mixed blessing when it worked
I’ve learned the most from the cracked
once I broke into pieces
now I break into wholes

Listen to Carmen Giménez Smith read this excerpt from "Be Recorder"

"Assimilation is a complicated subject for children of immigrants. This poem considers the complicit and implicit ways of becoming a US citizen and how they speak to my mother's less simple road to assimilation as well as the larger political implications of assimilation for a woman of color."

Excerpt from “Be Recorder,” from Be Recorder. Copyright © 2019 by Carmen Giménez Smith. Reproduced with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,

More Poetry from Carmen Giménez Smith:

No Apology: A Poemifesto

I Will Be My Mother's Apprentice

Only A Shadow

About the Author

Carmen Giménez Smith

Carmen Giménez Smith is the author of six books, including Milk and Filth, a finalist for the National Book Critics...

Click for more from this author.

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