Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Poetry Month #28: Make Rice by No'u Revilla

Three poems of this poetry month celebration were recommended by people who truly know poetry: the folks at Seattle's Open Books: A Poem Emporium who generously helped me fill out the schedule.

Imagine reading in a comfy chair in a tiny, inviting space brimming with over 10,000 new, used, and out-of-print books ... all poetry. In fact, Open Books is one of only two or three poetry-only book stores in the country and offers a wide variety of readings and other poetry-oriented events. Of course, right now, you can't do that because the store is closed because of the coronavirus.

When owner Billie Swift had to close the store, it was clear that she needed to start selling books online. However, she knew she wanted to maintain some of the look and service offered to people who came into the store. She didn't want just a fulfillment warehouse so she kept all the staff and designed a process that would replicate as closely as possible the store experience. Email questions are encouraged and staff picks showcase new and important work.
Online store has a bookish look and is simple to use.
Here's the second recommendation from Open Books as described by bookseller Jeric Swift: No'u Revilla, who is a queer Indigenous poet and educator of Hawai'ian and Tahitian descent. She was born and raised on the island of Maui and has performed all over the world in places like Papua New Guinea, Canada, and at the United Nations. 

The making of the rice, the washing of the grains in preparation of feeding her family, and how the running of water over the grains somehow find its way running over the bodies of children... The speaker is reminded of children escaping through fences, alluding to the treacherous journeys immigrants and refugees, at times, are forced to undertake when leaving home. The dread of raising a daughter seeping into this simple and domestic act of washing the rice is startling.

Make Rice

I rinse fists of brown grain with
water that comes from the faucet and
even if I can’t afford it, I take
the time to watch hard pellets
squeeze through my fingers
like hard brown children are squeezed
out of holes
in fences
on private property.
Pouring dirty water out,
shooting faucet water in.
But I never lose a piece of rice
because that could be my daughter.

            ––No’u Revilla, from Effigies III: Permission to Make Digging Sounds (Salt Publishing)

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