The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Natalia Treviño’s “Lavando La Dirty Laundry”


From Natalia Treviño’s book “Lavando La Dirty Laundry”

Translating Birth

My grandmother once told me,
todos mis partos fueron bonitos
of her five births. In Spanish,
the word for birth is parto,
and being raised gringa,
I had been translating words to English

by removing the o. It almost always worked:
banco, bank, santo, saint. And with a, I also had success:
computadora, ador-a. Adore. Flor-a.
But not all words fit this rule. There was no birtho,
and Bertha was a name, not a cognate:
a-bierto and a-bierta did not work—to open is not to be born.

The Spanish for born was nacer. There was no nace.
At least birth and born alliterated in Texas.
Nacer and parto did not. I heard all of my partings were pretty.
Could the language be that wise?
The child parts. Departs? Departe de meant from whom.
I saw the baby as a part that came from the mother.

I could see the opposite of what she said, the ugly partings.
Cuts. Splits. Parte la carne. Se partió por en medio.
Cut the meat. It split itself down the middle.
Me parto el corazón por mis hijos, tío Jorge said.
And on an operating table, he did split his heart for his children.

I ask this of a language where
the heads of pigs hang above sodas
three houses away. Where newspapers print, ¡Accidente!
above bright photos of half-bodies, twisted, red metal.
Where with this same paper,
they wrap the meat you will eat for lunch.

This selection comes from Natalia Trevino’s book Lavando La Dirty Laundry, available from Mongrel Empire Press! Find more details about the book here!

Born in Mexico City and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Natalia Treviño was raised in Spanish by her parents while Bert and Ernie gave her English lessons on the side. Natalia is an Associate Professor of English at Northwest Vista College and a member of the Macondo Foundation, a writer’s workshop aimed at encouraging non-violent social change.  She graduated from UTSA’s graduate English and The University of Nebraska’s MFA in Creative Writing programs. Her poetry has won the Alfredo Moral de Cisneros Award for Emerging Writers from Sandra Cisneros, the Wendy Barker Creative Writing Award, the 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and the San Antonio Artists Foundation Literary Award. Natalia’s fiction has appeared in Curbstone Press’s Mirrors Beneath the Earth and The Platte Valley Review. Nonfiction essays are included in the Wising Up Anthologies, Shifting Balance Sheets: Women’s Stories of Naturalized Citizens and Complex Allegiances: Constellations of Immigration. She is currently finishing her novel, La Cruzada. Often working the community programs to increase young adult literacy, she has taught classes at women’s and children’s shelters as well as teen detention centers. Having experienced a bi-national and bicultural life, she hopes to raise understanding between people divided by arbitrary borders. She lives with her husband, Stewart and son, Stuart just outside of San Antonio, Texas.

Darren C. Demaree is the author of three poetry collections, As We Refer to Our Bodies (2013, 8th House), Temporary Champions (2014, Main Street Rag), and Not For Art For Prayer (2015, 8th House). He is the recipient of three Pushcart Prize nominations and a Best of the Net nomination. He is also a founding editor of Ovenbird Poetry and AltOhio. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.


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