If you feel like a dishcloth
Like a butt
Like a husk.
Don’t water your sadness,
Your failure doesn’t exist
(The failure is his!)
Of the man who used you to clean himself
And threw you away like an old dishcloth,
Who sucked out your energy,
Enjoyed you then trod on you like a dead butt;
He bit into your fruit
And threw away what was left of you,
The pure and simple velvet shell.
If you are a dishcloth,
Sow your seeds inside yourself!
Then flower again in a painting,
Or if a husk,
In food for a starving child.
(That’s what I did.)
This poem comes from Gloria Fuertes, Historia de Gloria, Amor, Humor y Desamor (Madrid: Cátedra, 1980). You can see just from the title that she loves wordplay. The title could be Story of Glory in English and I chose this poem because it shows just where Gloria finds her glory.
Gloria Fuertes is a well-known poet in Spain. She has written some of the best-selling anthologies of poetry for children with delightful plays on words and meanings. She has an engaging directness. Historia de Gloria combines the wistful observations of her children’s poetry with a directness of sentiment and feeling that occasionally makes you feel awkward, like when someone you meet on the bus confides in you. “Oh Gloria!” I found myself saying at times, struck by the painful autobiographical truth of what she was saying.
This poem is a good example. “The pure and simple velvet shell” in Spanish is “la monda y lironda cáscara de terciopelo”. Monda is part of an expression that means pure and simple but when it is used alone it means something like “stripped to the bone”. That one line is the most lyrical in the whole poem, right there in the centre, seeding the poem like the advice she gives at the end.
And I imagine the food for a starving child refers to her poetry that has given food for thought to several generations of children now.