Take a sneak peek at my recently completed memoir, My Mother in Havana.
What the Twig Wants: The Pinch
“What the twig wants is to split open, step out of its skin. Its wanting is there in the way its bark knots at the joints, furrows like a river. There, where it would rather become the sea: A bird, wing tucked, broken but tough. Alligator rough. A baby bird with an alligator mouth, one round eye staring before takeoff.”
Mermaids: The Southern Review
The Italian brothers paid $40,000 for her. She was stitched from monkey arms and fish skin, assembled by a bird stuffer in London’s West End. Barnum’s came from Japanese fishermen who claimed her charmed corpse might rescue the human race. These are facts—
Egret Painting Bison: South Loop Review
“At Altamira, Spain, fourteen-thousand-year-old bison pace the cave ceiling. The man below doesn’t see them. He is looking down, scanning the cave floor for small pieces of decorated bone and antler like the ones he’s seen at the Paris Exhibit of Stone Age Art. Perhaps if the archaeologists he’d met there had been talking about bison he would have known to look for them, too. But it is 1879. No cave art on this scale has yet been found.”
Mother with Paul Newman & Small Axis: Ninth Letter
If I could see nothing but the quiver on her red lips, I would know everything about the girl she clasped inside her handbag. I would know this was a café where doors spun open before they closed and a woman might for a moment remember who she was.
Falling: Quarter After Eight
“1970’s conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader is 27 when he dedicates himself to falling. His project is not metaphorical. He films himself—falling from a tree, a rooftop. From standing at rest. At 27 I am dedicating myself to holding on. I have a one-year-old. In eight months his father will leave, causing an equal and opposite reaction in myself. ‘I will never let you go,’ I whisper in my toddler’s ear.”
She was a girl under construction. Pretty but not, and always splitting herself in two. There was the exacting-self, who hardly ate in the hopes that there would be less of her to disappoint. At work she rejoiced in the latest in colonics and spinning classes with a group of unnaturally thin and beautiful co-workers who’d decided, as a collective, to starve themselves for the benefit of worldwide women’s perfection. At the gym she pumped and sweat off any trace of kale. And when she finally emptied herself, she made her way home and sank, exhausted, into her purple chair, where the other self—the one that fed her hunger—took over.
Anatomy of a Tango: Sonora Review
“My parents have been married over thirty years when my mother convinces my father to take ballroom dancing lessons. Until now they’ve done it his way, my father improvising a self-taught jitterbug to whatever music happens to be playing, my mother doing her best to follow along. Now twice a week they drive to a Fred Astaire dance studio to learn the foxtrot and tango. How to create a dance frame that will hold them both in place as they spin counterclockwise around the ring of the ballroom—my father’s left hand cupping my mother’s shoulder blade, his right grasping her fingers gently yet firmly between his. My mother stepping into the space he shapes before him just for her.”
Parched: The Southern Review
Because at Glenwood Gardens there are no orange poppies flashing their fiery centers. No riotous tulips. Just these few violets wilting out front. Rows of boxwoods cut into squares. Such a hassle anyway, the outdoors! We must roll out the wheelchair, find the sunglasses. Everything worth seeing has been brought inside—seashells stamped on beach-inspired wallpaper. Framed florals pressed behind glass. No extravagant watercolors. Just these print replicas hiding behind Latin names.
Squeeze: Tampa Review
“It starts like this. Your first time dancing you’re clumsy, self- conscious. All corners and no center. You try to think your way through it, like a game of chess. But it’s a feeling game. Close your eyes. The song they’re playing is in your hips, not your head. Feel the places where you’re solid. There, in your pelvis. There, where your partner’s one hand cups your shoulder blade and the other cradles your fingers, the rest of you disappearing into sound. Like flying.”
The Dining Room Table: Tampa Review
“In 1936 my father almost went to medical school. Ten years later my mother almost became an opera singer. Together, in 1952, they almost bought a section of an unknown beach called Puerto Vallarta. In 1961 Dad put an end to almost. He sold the family funeral home and furniture store to buy land. And on the first day of his new life Grandma Antonia, who couldn’t understand why the son she’d raised to be a gentleman would want to shame her by getting his hands dirty, drove to the side of the field where he was working and shot herself in the head with a revolver.”
Parched: The Chapbook
Designed by Matanzas artist Adrián Milián, Parched contains Rebe’s poems Mermaids, Parched, and Mother with Paul Newman and Small Axis, and her lyric essay What the Twig Wants. Each copy is handcrafted by the independent book artists of Matanzas, Cuba’s Ediciones Vigía, a collective of writers and artists who use recycled materials to create numbered, limited editions of Cuban and international literary works.