The Secret History of Water by Silvia Curbelo

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Van K. Brock Florida Poetry Series (1997)

This is a compelling first collecton of necessary poems. -- Carolyn Forche

Throughout, her precise, surprising language serves the mysteries of her subject matter. This is a wonderful debut. -- Stephen Dunn

Silvia Curbelo's poetry is accomplished, daring, full of energy and intelligence. -- W.S. Merwin


Photograph of My Parents

I like the way they look together
and how simply her smile floats towards him
out of the dim afterglow

of some memory, his hand
cupped deliberately
around the small flame

of a match. In this light
nothing begins or ends
and the camera's pale eye

is a question that answers itself
in the asking. Are you there?
And they are. Behind them

the wind tears down and blows
apart, angel of nonchalance.
The world belongs to the world.

For years he smoked down to the filters
sorting out the pieces of his life
with the insomniac's penchant

for detail. In the heart's
heavy forest, the tree of self-denial,
the bough, the single leaf

like the blade of a word held back
for a long time. The moment
she leans towards him the room

will become part of the story.
The light is still as a pond.
My mother's blue scarf

is the only wave.


Drinking Song

In every half-filled glass a river
begging to be named, rain on a leaf,
a snowdrift. What we long for

precedes us. What we've lost
trails behind, casting
a long shadow. Tonight

the music's sad, one man's
outrageous loneliness detonated
into arpeggios of relief. The way

someone once cupped someone's
face in their hands, and the world
that comes after. Everything

can be pared down to gravity
or need. If the soul soars with longing
the heart plunges headfirst

into what's left, believing
there's a pure want
to fall through. What we drink to

in the end is loss, the space
around it, the opposite
of thirst, its shadow.

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