Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés
2010 Chapbook Contest Winner

Back when I was a Quinceañera

Back when I was a quinceañera
I had my name
written in flowers
on a altar where I was queen

As a quinceañera, I ruled the night
everybody paid attention and homage to me

When I was a quinceañera, I was sweet, innocent
wore white with meaning
a peach boa-trimmed chiffon cape floated behind me
I wore pearls around my slender neck
     a tiara
     spiraling curls

© 2010 Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés

Author Biography

Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés was born in New Jersey to Cuban parents. At age 14, she moved with her family to Miami where she earned a B.A. in English / Creative Writing at the University of Miami and a Masters at Barry University. She married in Miami and then moved to upstate New York where she studied writing with Toni Morrison at the State University of New York at Albany. She lives with her partner and children in Orlando where she has taught writing and literature at the University of Central Florida since 1999. Her first collection of stories, Marielitos, Balseros and Other Exiles was published in 2009.

Critical Response

"The everyday chica in Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés' Everyday Chica is Jersey girl, disco queen, and quinceañera as well as keen cultural critic. Rodríguez Milanés came of age within and apart from two cultural traditions, and her all-too-brief collection of coming-of-age poems takes us from New Jersey to Cuba and back again, with forays into family and cultural history, in which language is exuberant, funny, and tender."

—Stephanie Brown

"'The seed of exile sprouted me,' writes Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés in Everyday Chica, and her poems examine that seed and its shoots. The poems take us on a journey of generations, a 'reverse exodus' from the poet's ancestry in Cuba to growing up a Cuban American, a poetic archeology which she works to unearth 'the right language,' something worked for, earned, and jarred loose from the culture she embraces and interrogates. These are poems that address the importance of speaking the truth, but it's the sinking into grief that polishes them into a starshine of papayas, sapote, and 'the old neighborhood.; The seed Rodríguez Milanés explores bears 'a mighty magnet' of fruit tended by 'careful hands' that ultimately show us how we can each find a home, even amidst our various wanderings."

—George Kalamaras

©2009 Longleaf Press at Methodist University | Fayetteville, NC