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[Note: This review is used here by permission of its author, Beverly Slapin. It may not be published elsewhere without the author's written permission.]
Miranda, Deborah (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen/Chumash), The Zen of La Llorona. Salt Publishing, 2005. 106 pages, high school-up.
According to Miranda’s small gray Zen book, “everyone loses everything.” “Nonsense,” La Llorona howls back, “there’s always something left to lose.” La Llorona, for whom Miranda named her second book of poems and prose, appears and disappears throughout it. La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, eternally grieving for the children whose lives she ended in resistance to colonization, and knowing that the colonizer has eternally transformed her into a destroyer like himself.
“I am La Llorona’s daughter,” Deborah Miranda writes, “I should have drowned, but I didn’t.” Somehow, despite the rage and fear, depression and self-loathing and inconsolable grief and “this beast called bereftness” passed on to her from her own mother, she survived.
Along this hard life’s road, Miranda encountered racism, domestic violence, rape, abandonment, addiction, and ultimately, the loves of her life: her children and another Indian woman. She writes with clarity and grace; and her poems are so achingly beautiful, I want to copy them all into this review. In a love poem called “Mesa Verde,” she picks up “a stalk of some rosy blossom, unknown, unidentified.”
Tiny gold ants crawl on the hairy stem,
seek the deep center, enter it.
As we drive on, I leave the branch behind.
The ants will find their way home carrying
a burden so sweet it needs no name,
a story to tell about being taken up,
removed, finding the intricate paths back.
The Zen of La Llorona, poems of loss and despair, survival and strength, is, as acclaimed poet Sandra Cisneros, says, “wondrous stuff.” Deborah Miranda has a brave and loving heart, and I am honored to call her “friend.”