Amelia Diaz Ettinger

Artist’s Statement

‘I write because this story happened’

            Poetry was something new I discovered when I came to live with three uncles and my father.  In this new home, they recited poetry after dinner. I listen and noticed how the words would go up and down like a song, that was not a song, and how mysterious it was to see how the men nodded their heads, and how the love between those brothers showed. So, one day I ran away from the piano, with my first poem, to the only adult in the house, Esperanza, my nanny, a maid that ran the household of a macho universe. Running to the kitchen, I asked her to listen to my poem, hoping she would write it down. “Una Estrella brilló…,” Esperanza listened with a smile, and she said, “Bravo, Melín, bravo.” But she did not write down a single word.

            “Why don’t you write it?”

            Esperanza smiled timidly and went back to her cooking. “Mi niña, words can stay with you even if you do not put them on paper. See, I will treasure your poem here in my head.” I liked her explanation at the time and was happy she was the woman substituting for a mother. Years later, when she no longer worked for us, I met Esperanza in Gurabo, the hometown. She reminded me of the poem she had kept memorized, she recited it for me. That is when I learned, Esperanza did not know how to write, but the joys of poems she knew very well by heart.

            This was the start of my need to write. And to write what was true and sincere, just like it was for Esperanza all those years ago, to remember words, because they are important.