Sunday, November 17, 2013

flesh to bone

Olga García Echeverría

I haven’t written a blog since my father died at the end of September. I tried, but every time I came to the computer, the blank page reigned, the silence inside me reigned.

A couple of weeks ago, while making yet another futile and feeble attempt at returning to my regular blogging schedule, my girlfriend gently took the keyboard from my hands and said, “It’s okay. I’ll do it.” Now if that isn’t love in action, I don’t know what is. You can check out her Love-in-Action blog here:

To say the least, I’m blog backlogged. There’s a pending blog on the sweetest of dates; one on the Salton Sea; another one on writing workshops in the Imperial Valley; there’s Linda Hogan and several contemporary Mexican women writers. These are all blogs wanting to be born.

And then, there’s ire’ne lara silva’s new collection of stories, flesh to bone. I was fortunate enough to get an early electronic copy of silva’s book, and it’s been waiting patiently on my desktop. I wasn’t ready to read it last month (the title was a little too close to home), but this past week I grew curious about its contents and delved in. I'm glad I did.

"The words were honey in her throat, her body trembled almost as if the words falling into her were rain and she a leaf."

What I love most about ire’ne lara silva is that she is a true lover of words. She grapples with them in the darkness. She dances with them in the light. Sometimes she turns them into honey on the page. Other times they’re thorns. silva feeds words. She explores them ceaselessly. She digs deep beneath their skins to find their hunger, their heartbeats, their inner oceans, their magic.

"She liked the unknown shapes in words. Liked to open them to the eye. Liked words that sparked with one meaning when they were held up to the light and another meaning when she took them to the shadows. A tree that was a cloud that was a silver fin that was a drop of water that was the aching curve of the moon."

In her new collection of short stories, flesh to bone, ire’ne lara silva delivers 9 lyrical stories that delve into the shadows of loss and grief, into hiding places, into straight and queer love, into mother-daughter/sister-brother/daughter-father relationships, into folklore, into deserts and death, into an ocean as omnipotent healer. Ever present in silva’s collection is an echoing hunger, a hunger that is not rendered a curse, but rather a blessing, almost a calling.

"Her eyes were hungry in the dark. Her skin was hungry in the sudden coolness. Swallowing her own blood, she heard the rumbling of her empty stomach. The word singing singing inside her— what she was and what made her alive. She hungered to be, she hungered to live, to feel, to speak, to run. She hungered to be free…
—Mayantli—she cried to the night wind, laughing and free —My name is Mayantli—"

In flesh to bone, silva opens windows to other worlds, where divisions between the here and the más allá collapse. The dead are everywhere and very alive in this collection. Los vivos se enamoran con los muertos. Las mujeres de Juarez speak. The unborn are remembered and honored. La Llorona—misunderstood and misnamed—gets reconstructed.

"The people who remembered her, remembered her by the wrong name. But the ones who saw her, the ones she saved, the ones whose pain she ended, the ones for whom she was death’s face, the ones her own hands put to rest, they recognized the rage and tenderness in her eyes and called her Mother. She watched over everyone, listening for their cries. The ones who’d forgotten heard only the echoes of her wailing and thought it was the wind."

The stories in this collection are testimonios of survival and that survival many times is strengthened by or made possible by nature. In “Tecolotl,” a heartbroken woman metamorphosizes into an owl. In “Thorn Forest,” a queer man whose lover has been beaten and burned to death seeks refuge in a forest of thorn trees.

"How not to love those stubborn trees that clung to life, that lived off of sunlight and infrequent rain and hard earth. That refused to die. That would come back to life and re-create the forest as long as one limb survived. They survived everything."

Among the strengths of silva’s collection is her lyrical language that never ceases its ebb and flow, its retreats and returns, its constant undertow that pulls at the gut and the heart, evoking emotions and images.

"The curve of your sheltering arms straightened away from me. The air dimmed around you. At night, we were only bodies. I clung to you but woke further from you every time. Your skin lost its harvest-taste. No seeds tumbled from your hair."

The prose is poetry, really, and the book’s multiple characters and voices are wise truth tellers.

"What strange creatures grief makes of us. At once, hollow and brimming over. All things rendered precious, rendered useless."

flesh to bone is an important literary work that highlights silva’s continual evolution as a writer, a critical-and-emotional thinker, and a shape shifter.

"My wings unfurled, tips alight. I tore myself from Tía’s grasp, and I was gone—in the air, hollow and hungry.
I’d found my wings.
I flew."

Felicidades, ire’ne. Your book is a testament to transforming loss into strength. May you continue to stretch your alas and soar, hermana. Gracias.

To purchase flesh to bone:

Visit ire'ne lara silva's website:
Follow ire'ne lara silva's blog:

ire'ne lara silva genre finalist in AROHO's 6th Gift of Freedom

A bloga on ire'ne's previous poetry collection, Furia:

ire'ne lara silva is the author of two chapbooks: ani’mal and INDíGENA. Her first collection of poetry, furia, was published by Mouthfeel Press in October 2010 and received an Honorable Mention for the 2011 International Latino Book Award in Poetry. She is the 2008 recipient of the Gloria Anzaldua Milagro Award, a Macondo member, a 2010 Cantomundo Inaugural Fellow, and the 2013 Fiction Finalist for A Room of Her Own Foundation's Gift of Freedom.

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