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
© 2010 Cecilia
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.
"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."
"'The seed of exile sprouted me,' writes
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."