Not Even My People Recognize Me: Featured Poetry by Johanny Vázquez Paz

December 11, 2019 | 1 book mentioned

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from I Offer My Heart as a Target/Ofrezco mi corazón como una diana by Johanny Vázquez Paz, translated by Lawrence Schimel.

Paz offers a lament of identity and appearance; the recurring usage of “they”—both displaced and omnipresent—suggests the narrator’s feeling that her light skin and hair are seen as a curse. She is a “discordant note:” unwanted and unwelcome.


“Milkman’s Daughter”

They say
that I don’t look like what I am
my white skin
                           lonely cloud in a shady sky
my hair
                           rays of a Nordic sun
my hips
                           narrow lacking substance and sugar.

They say
that I pronounce words differently
my diction is too proper
without changing my arr or dropping my esses
very Castilian and beyond mockery.

They say
that I don’t represent the folklore of the people
the patriotic symbols, the plátano stain
not even my people recognize me as a daughter;
I’m the enigma of a badly conceived graft.

They call me milkman’s daughter
güera, gringa, polaca
glass of milk, Casper the Ghost
discordant note, alien being
the white sheep in a coppery herd.

“Milkman’s Daughter” is excerpted from I Offer My Heart as a Target/Ofrezco mi corazón como una diana, copyright 2019 by Johanny Vázquez Paz, translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author and Akashic Books (akashicbooks.com).

is a contributing editor for The Millions. He is the culture editor for Image Journal, and has written for Rolling Stone, GQ, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Esquire, and The Kenyon Review. His newest book is Longing for an Absent God. Follow him at @nickripatrazone and find more of his writing at nickripatrazone.com.

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