In Their Own Words

ire'ne lara silva's “shame: a ghazal in pieces”

shame: a ghazal in pieces

a body should have its wildness yes this body yes your body who are they to name your body my body a shame body shame my weight shame your weight shame how i look shame how you look shame my disease shame my story say we have made ourselves sick we keep ourselves sick what is the blame body would it be easier if my body did not exist if your body did not exist if all our diabetic bodies did not exist oh we will not blame my body blame our bodies when my body has only done everything it could to survive my body is a flame body alive with fire fire pulsing inside shouting live live live my story which is only triumphant because i am still here neither pain nor shame will erase me or silence me there are poems here too here in the places where all maps end your body has survived my body has survived i will not be ashamed of surviving

From Blood Sugar Canto
(Saddle Road Press, 2016)

Introduction by Christopher Soto

Blood Sugar Canto by ire'ne lara silva is filled with iterations and reiterations and poetic refrains. The poem becomes a song, becomes a prayer, a pleading, a war cry. "you have my eyes / you have my mouth / we have my face / we have my hands / we fold our corn tortillas the same way." The repetition in these poems creates a forward-moving energy, a pulse, an electric surge throughout the book, which cannot be stopped. blood sugar canto is a book of disease, bodily pain, and a search for medicine, healing, questioning. ire'ne lara silva is a poet of relentlessness and unbound passion!

ire'ne lara silva on "shame: a ghazal in pieces"

I love the elegance and music of ghazals and wanted the inventiveness of language that a ghazal's rhyme scheme demands. But not only do I suffer from the need to rebel against rules—even the ones I set for myself—I also found that the lilting rhythm of the ghazal was at loggerheads with my sense of indignation. Finally, I let the ferocity I felt explode the ghazal structure while retaining the ghazal-inspired language.

blood sugar canto began as my response to the fear I felt when I was diagnosed as diabetic but also as a counter to all the fear that I felt drove the medical community's discourse. It wasn't about self-care being inspired by love for oneself or disseminating information to others as part of building a caring community—it was about the fear of blindness and kidney failure and amputation motivating diet/exercise changes and encouraging passivity in response to doctors' medication plans. What came clear to me as I wrote the book was that other emotions needed to be addressed as well—love, despair, depression, anger, hope, dedication, and also, shame.

I couldn't say this book was done without writing a poem that directly addressed shame when shame is so often what disempowers our attempts to heal. And so this poem is for all of us, with the understanding that we are all works in progress, that we are all at different points in our healing journeys, that each body responds differently to medication, that some have more access to education and nutrition, that poverty and cultural theft leave some more vulnerable than others, and that illness and healing involve all of who we are—as physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual selves who also belong to multiple communities.

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