Lacking Duende

      by Naomi Beth Wakan

It’s not that I have
any problem with creativity—
my ideas come fast and furious,
linking in strange and exotic ways.
It’s just that they do not
penetrate the bone to the marrow.
The soil I plant them in
is not sprinkled with blood . . .
My writing is of familiar ground
that lacks the suffering of the outcast,
the sorrows of the diaspora.
My words may circle
on the edge of the devilish,
but never plunge into the Hell states.
They lack the grit of downtown,
or the roughness of wilderness.
I tell the tales of a small-town girl
tinged with the longing to be noticed . . .
but not too much.
At my age, the presence of death
may shadow my every line,
but it is of death delayed,
not death imminent.
Not the kind of death a samurai
confronted as he stepped from home
not knowing for sure whether
he would ever return.
Yet still, my poetry is not without redemption.
I seek to find duende in the everyday—
a ball of twisted twine,
a worn-down kitchen spoon,
the many-times turned pages
of a beloved book.
And when I write of love,
although it is not of passion,
at least I remind that it can
never be truly happy.
As to quests and ventures,
I speak of them as futile, rather than heroic,
the grail always just beyond my reach.
I may have somersaulted the bull’s back
in my “maybe” lines, but,
I have never closed in for
the final stabbing.


First published in Bent Arm for a Pillow, Gabriola Island, British Columbia: Pacific-Rim Publishers, 2016, pages 174–175.