It is a dangerous thing
to forget the climate of your birthplace,
to choke out the voices of dead relatives
when in dreams they call you
by your secret name.
It is dangerous
to spurn the clothes you were born to wear
for the sake of fashion; dangerous
to use weapons and sharp instruments
you are not familiar with; dangerous
to disdain the plaster saints
before which your mother kneels
praying with embarrassing fervor
that you survive in the place you have chosen to live:
a bare, cold room with no pictures on the walls,
a forgetting place where she fears you will die
of loneliness and exposure.
Jesús, María, y José, she says,
el olvido is a dangerous thing.
Judith Ortiz Cofer, “El Olvido” from Terms of Survival. Copyright © 1987 by Judith Ortiz Cofer. Reprinted by permission of Arte Público Press.
Source: Terms of Survival (Arte Público Press, 1987)
Poems by Judith Ortiz Cofer