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Esperanza

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My name mocks me
for I was born at the cost
of my mother’s life,
earning my father’s hatred
with my first breath.
All my life
I have scoured a house soiled
with the thick soot of his resentment.
It has left its mark on the walls,
in his eyes, and on me.
All of it I have tried to wipe away.
In my hands I hold a broom,
in my heart—
ashes, ashes.


Judith Ortiz Cofer, “Esperanza” 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)
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Esperanza

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  • Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, a small town in Puerto Rico. When she was a young child her father’s military career took the family to Paterson, New Jersey, but she often spent her childhood traveling back and forth between Puerto Rico and the U.S. At 15, her family moved again, this time to Augusta, Georgia, where she eventually earned a BA in English from Augusta College. She later earned an MA in English from Florida Atlantic University and did graduate work at Oxford University.
     
    Although Ortiz Cofer is best known for her works of creative nonfiction, she began her writing career with poetry, which she feels “contains the essence of language.” Her early chapbook Peregrina (1986) won the Riverstone International Chapbook Competition, and she has published various other collections of poetry since, including Terms of Survival (1987), Reaching for the Mainland (1995), and A Love Story...

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