Ciguapa by Ines Rivera Prosdocimi



It begins this way.  Running from a wooden shack a shade
of heaven; a zinc roof pummeled with stars. The mars earth
going on and on. The heat gliding along your neck like a lover.  
A blistering fever. Above everything: a blood moon.
A white man comes like water, chanting your name. He stands
like a woman, arms outstretched.  His eyes are true. His hands:
the color of alabaster when he pushes you down. Thrash, thrash. 
Pull away,
he says, as much as you want. Drink, drink-up, he says 
again and again.
A horizon of owls. All around, the red dyed river, 
when he turns your feet to face the other way.


It ends this way. Walking, you notice me covered by hair, black
as a starless sky, slick as a raven.  Your eyes are the first jewels
I claim. You remember your mother saying: Lakes appear calm
but they can be profound and dangerous. And feel yourself walking
away but walking to me. You are tulips, chrysanthemums. You are
tiger lilies in my head.  Let me cradle you like someone who loves. 
You of dandelions, of daffodils, of hyacinths in my head. Glide, 
my black tulip. And I’ll take you to the lake’s bottom. Tell you
about my sister, my mother. Tell you about my baby down here
because of  the man with Jesus on his lips. 

*In Dominican folklore, ciguapas are women appearing near bodies of water, clothed only in their jet black hair. Captivating men, ciguapas’ victims follow them into these waters, without noticing their backward feet. This myth connects to accounts describing Tainos who would confuse their persecutors by walking backward and leaving footprints. Yet, this myth has been preserved by syncretized Afro-Christian beliefs and practices.

Contributor Notes

Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi’s poetry collection, Love Letter to an Afterlife, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in 2018. Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cold Mountain Review, Kweli, Nimrod, Poet Lore,  and Witness. She is completing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Maryland. She teaches at the University of Hartford.