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.