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Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire

Michelle Peñaloza

Top 10 Best Quotes

“The pelicans paddle in coils of waves and light. Low tide reveals fissures of saltwater and rock. From the smallest crevices color insists-colonies of jade anemones, a purple starfish harvest, barnacles hiding beaks of unbleached linen, black mussel bouquets. Between the air and sea, -this, one large prayer. I kneel.”

“when you sleep and I can't I trace the lines of your face with my eyes wondering about the ways you might one day break my heart”

“This morning I woke dreaming of a man I'd not undressed in fifteen years. We may as well have written letters with goose quills. Th mind's meddling, curious - why him, why now? Still, it's fun to throw spaghetti against the wall. See what falls, what sticks. Isn't this a game we're always losing? The root of diminution.”

“These rocks are the church where I knelt in black worsted silk beside my mother. Her shoulders sharp beneath my embrace. My mother: a solid wailing. These rocks are the soil where she kneels before the whorls of roses, kneeing before that box as if it were my father's grave. The closed anemones offer their sticky blossoms as the tide washes toward me. Small bits of the coast meet my skin, scraping my iron onto my knees.”

“There's a saying: those who do not swim deep in the waters from which they came cannot arrive in the oceans they hope to go. My parents began an ocean away and arrived in a land of lakes and snow. I've been back to their waters (is it mine, too?) but, wasn't a good swimmer. Everyone spoke underwater; I could only hold my breath to listen for so long. I did learn the water carries its own song.”

“The tide moves me higher on the crags. My joints crunch like the mussels and barnacles beneath my boots. I walk a tightrope, from here to another ocean huddled with archipelagos where ancestral canoes set to paddle across the world. I teeter and my hands catch the water rising cold. The sea we come from is much warmer.”

“The stars above us ask so little, despite our cells, coursing with their dust. To err is constant- someday, all the things we believe will seem ancient. Perhaps, we'll live more times than once. Eventually, we will all flee toward the coastline. The world we ignore most and understand least will call us back to give up our toenails for tails, cover our breasts with starfish and numinous scales. Tell me, how will a cellist sound beneath the sea?”

“The discipline of joy is about survival. You make your own joy- this is the work my mother taught me. Little factory, little mine of reminders- find, make, joy to sustain multiple life- times: the blanket made beautiful from patterned found scraps; the broth of tap water and ginger and bones. What fullness my mother earned and could stuff inside an envelope to send each month back home.”

“Our dead are lost, aren't they? There is always some mistake: lost down a well, lost in the woods. Lost for words, lost to the world, we'll never make up for lost time. The sheep, the baby, the prodigal son, wandering beyond our imaginings, along the border of our grief and need.”

“Lola long dead, I still enter her old room and find her rosary made from pressed rose petals. I cradle it in my palms, perfuming my hands with her prayers. I don't pray. I just wonder at the fragrance a brown bead can hold, how many petals, how many roses, to make just one bead.”

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Book Keywords:

love, dreams, happiness, grandma, ocean, heartbreak, parents, beach, joy, prayer, swim, sleep, marine-life, self, tide, immigration, mind, mother, loved-ones, death, stars, cells, constellations, waters, lola

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