The Boss we called her, though in life her authority barely reached beyond the aroma-stained walls of her over-worked kitchen. She came to America from Puglia in 1920, seven months pregnant with my father. A woman on the run from who knows what. Poverty, or the threat of it. Of my grandmothers, I knew her best, this woman of sad brown eyes, whose drawn lips withheld somber secrets no matter how many times I asked, “Why did you leave Italy?”
After her husband died, The Boss ruled, a dowager empress, her queenly attire, a plaid or flowered house dress, a simple apron, with or without pockets, anointed with meatball grease, stained with red sauce, flour, egg yolks, and sweat. Immacolata, her mother named her, a mother who died before her sweet girl-child turned four, leaving a hollow of want in the young girl’s bones (the onset of shrouded mystery?).
Original art created by Victor Hernández for ‘Softly’
a song to make them stand,
perhaps they’ll listen, baying noiseless in the night,
music has its charms, the savage breast contains staccato beats.
This is the first part of an essay by the author published in Goddess Pages in 2008.
“Gender” might be described as “one’s perception of their self” as being either female or male, and “sex” as “the physical appearance of one’s body” as either female or male. The “sex” of a body is commonly understood to necessarily be able to fall into one or the other designation, and if it does not then life, within many cultures, is almost certain to be traumatic for the being involved. Within Western culture of more recent centuries at least, and within many other global social/religious contexts, no shades of “grey” have been allowed in this matter, no kaleidoscope – as is allowed in almost all other dualities. This rigid polarization of sex has not been so for many indigenous traditions – even still today: there is often much more fluidity about the significance of sexual physical appearance. Within my own Western culture, “gender” is commonly understood to “ideally” be in alignment with the “sex” of one’s body, and that’s where categories such as “feminine” and “masculine” are entered into. Continue reading
Victor Hernández is an artist from Socorro, Texas who recently returned to la frontera after spending several years in Austin and Houston working as a commercial artist. His painting, “Angel in Decline,” is the cover art for the poetry collection Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal, written by Donna Snyder. Victor’s work includes sculpture, portraits, video, collage, textile, multi-media, and other art forms. He has had solo shows at contemporary art venues such as the Super Happy Fun Place in Houston, and has also been a part of various group exhibitions, including with the JUNTOS Art Association in Houston. For the band Organ Failure, Victor created album cover art and a claymation music video which can be seen on various video and political action websites. He has presented creative writing workshops with the Tumblewords Project, a grassroots literary project that has presented workshops and performances in the border region since 1995.