Friday, November 15, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

Purple My Heart
By Odilia Galvan Rodriguez

            for dad
purple my heart
at nine years old
watching the man I loved
more than anyone in the world
sitting in the blue-red light
coming through
the picture window
holding in his strong hands
the case
that held
all he had to show
for all those hundreds
of lives he’d taken
their spirits brought him
countless sleepless nights
or took him in and out
of the other side
with night sweats
the wake up screaming
full of those violet faces
of his ghost sickness

purple the heart
my father won in Korea
then this trophy case
shattered and split
with dried seeds of blood
on still clenched fist
all his medals torn apart
ripped and wrinkled ribbons
resting on splintered glass
meaningless medallions
tossed aside in disgust
he, repeating over and over
I did this for what?

purple the oath
of loyalty
my father took
pledged his life
to defend his country
from the Reds
but after all was said
the speeches of good will
could not quell the visions
of ones that looked up at him
from charred fields of death
where his big guns had buried them
mirrored back were faces of kin
they claimed him more
than the white man did
when he returned home
from Korea
jobs and housing
barred from him
and his kind

purple the smoke of
burning cedar and sage
of lavender oil rubbed
deep into head, chest
hands and feet
elders predicted
there was not enough
their medicine could do
no amount of ceremony
could wash away
that amount blood
the sickness
would have to fade
like the signs
of fire, flood or
with the years
he’d have to pray
away the madness
await his destiny

purple the sorrow cloth
lining his coffin
covering the mirrors
after his death
rain through
street lamp glow
the sunset
ripple clouds
in a sky so blue
amaranth  amethyst
heliotrope  lavender
lilacs  lupines  crocuses new
flowers on a heroes grave

purpled the night's glow
seeping through my window
his candles on the dresser
lighting the dark

Dad, Gilberto Rodriguez Paredes, far left, and friends 
during the Korean "Conflict"  - The Forgotten War.

I first encountered Odilia's work on MySpace. Very artistic, she had one of the most visually colourful and exotic blogs there, and it was full of wonderful poetry. A prolific poet, she did many series of haiku, and I considered her the master of the pantoum (she was experimental within the form). As you can see, she is equally brilliant in free verse.  I'm sure you understand why I chose this particular poem — it's so moving!

Odilia says of herself:

Author Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is of Chicano-Lipan Apache ancestry, born in Galveston, Texas and raised on the south side of Chicago. As a social justice activist for many years, Ms. Galván Rodríguez worked as a community and labor organizer, for the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO and other community based organizations, and served on various city/county boards and commissions. She is the author of three books of poetry, of which Migratory Birds: New and Noted Poems, is her latest publication.  Her creative writing has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies such as, The En'owkin Journal of First North American Peoples, New Chicana / Chicano Writing: 1& 2, Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native American Women's Writings of North America, Here is my kingdom: Hispanic-American literature and art for young people, Zyzzyva, The Beltway Poetry Quarterly, La Bloga as well as other online sites. She most recently worked as the English Edition Editor for Tricontinental Magazine, in Havana, Cuba under OSPAAAL, an NGO with consultative status to the United Nations.  She is also one of the facilitators of Poets Responding to SB1070, a Facebook page dedicated to calling attention to the unjust laws recently passed in Arizona which target Latinos, and teaches Empowering People Through Creative Writing Workshops nationally.  

You can read more of her poetry at her blog, feathers from the muse's wings, or in her Facebook Notes, and you can hear her read (beautifully!) on YouTube. The title poem of her book, Migratory Birds, is at Poem Hunter, and you can find the book at GoodReads.

Any poem or photo used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remains the property of the copyright holder (usually its author).


  1. I'm so glad I clicked the link to this blog. Beautiful. And true.

  2. How incredibly moving - the purple sorrow cloth - the night demons. This says it all about war, and the battle waged within the warriors on returning home. Fantastic choice, Rosemary. Thank you so much!

  3. This is so vivid, raw and real! I agree with Sherry a fantastic choice-it makes me breathless~ Wow
    Thank you for sharing this poem and her voice

  4. How exciting that you-all are blown away by it too! :)