Monday, May 22, 2017


After Alex Tizon’s article "My Family’s Slave" as regards Eudocia Tomas Pulido 
(The Atlantic, June 2017)


From The Ashbery Riff-Offs
—where each poem begins with 1 or 1-2 lines from “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” by John Ashbery

Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Avatar

Even stronger possibilities can remain
whole without being tested, like a girl
given as a slave by a father to a daughter
The daughter did not want her, but she
bowed to patriarchal authority—as with
so many matters, it starts there. The daughter
came to treasure slave-ownership, not
only from being fanned to sleep amidst
tropical heat. She spoke to a boy, then lied
When caught in her lie, her father pulled off
his belt to begin punishment. Cowering, she
thought of a solution she would keep re-
counting for the rest of her life: she told her
father her slave would take her penalty. He
did not question his daughter’s decision
The slave looked up, pleading with her
eyes: she was young enough to believe
a plea could garner sympathy—that a plea
maintained relevance in her life. The father
clenched his teeth before raising his belt
to lash her back, twelve times. The slave did
not utter a sound as she lost her self’s distinct
possibility while holding on to the table—
did the wood give way to the clench of her
unbelieving fingers? Years later, the slave
-owner’s son, offered the slave his own home
With her own bedroom. With no need to do
chores. With television. With her freedom
With only the smiling suggestion to enjoy
Could it all compensate for a life taken
away from this life-long virgin who once
hoped otherwise, having been spotted
sleeping amidst piles of laundry with legs and
arms crossed around a huge pillow? The slave
was 86 when she died—did she not remain a
possibility that remained whole without
being tested? Despite another family who
claimed her as their own? Another family
whose daughter kept recounting how
her slave was sliced with a dozen lashes
meant for another because the slave was
poor? Poverty—as with so many matters
it starts there. Between gritted teeth
the father had punctuated each lash from
his belt on her back with You. Do. Not. Lie.
To. Me. You. Do. Not. Lie. To. Me. To each
word in this life that was not hers, the slave
made no sound. No sound of her own to fit
in a life that became a lie to her own possibility

Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Integrity

The surprise, the tension are in the concept
rather than its realization. In this way, integrity
is possible as, like Picasso, we break into
irreparable fragments the image that assumes
it bespeaks the reality of psychology. To see
that woman sleeping amidst laundry piled up
in the corner of a room, her fingers trapped
in the pose of folding her master’s shirt, must
be to become broken witness—if not, integrity
becomes a dream trapped in a mirror. Only
the broken can muster the ability to howl:

Break                  EM

            P                     I                       R


into a


whose flames reveal, in a reversal of recorded
history, bodies not of “acceptable casualties”
but of politicians and generals with helmets
shields, uniforms and flags also fragmenting
in order to kindle the fire higher and hotter—

such is a nonexistent history as history
is recorded by victors. When the tired woman
wakes, she will open bleary eyes to the image
of fingers trapped in servitude. By knowing
the sight to be familiar, she will lapse to silence
unbroken, at the definition of her inescapable



Eileen R. Tabios, founding editor of Galatea Resurrects, has released about 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in eight countries and cyberspace. Her most recent include THE OPPOSITE OF CLAUSTROPHOBIA (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, United Kingdom, 2017) and AMNESIA: SOMEBODY’S MEMOIR (Black Radish Books, United States, 2016). Forthcoming poetry collections include MANHATTAN: An Archaeology (2017) and HIRAETH: Tercets From the Last Archipelago (2018). Inventor of the poetry form “hay(na)ku,” she has been translated into eight languages. She also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 12 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays as well as served as editor or guest editor for various literary journals. More information is available at

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