"window on my part-time employer in the one building that was once two" by Sheila Maldonado

July 14, 2021 

window on my part-time employer in the one building that was once two

Sheila Maldonado

i’m writing to the building of writing that is continually giving us the boot. writing alone can’t hold it up. i want to say writing created it, but it might have just assisted. and yet writing is its own building. writing extends the building. i’m from a long line of building extenders, a line that was broken. that line can be broken. it can be outlawed and driven out of town, the word finding refuge in the mountain, the mouth, the memory. it can be fired and replaced, a thread erased. it can’t all be put down. it rises up an ancestor told me. a few ancestors told me that. i will be an ancestor telling you to rise up. but as a present-day person I tend to lay there. i’ve been thrust from the building of letters, syllables, characters. they’re scattered and i lack the will to gather them. it is fine to lay among them. let them scramble. eventually i will get up and put them together again. it won’t be like i imagined. it will be.

immediate post-script
for a minute there, my keyboard stopped working. i was talking about letters and they wouldn’t come. i did not lay calmly. it was not a calm, it was a panic. i am wrong to say i could be so calm. i would fight for a while. i would fight to get back to the letter, to get back to the building, fight to make a new one.

Copyright © 2021 by Sheila Maldonado. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 14, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“I wrote this facing the current World Trade Center from a residency with Lower Manhattan Cultural Council on Governors Island in New York. I have worked in that new building as a freelancer for magazines and could see the island from the building when I was there. During the residency, I was working on a book I call bloodletters, which is about a narrator obsessed with the ancient Maya, creators of the first writing system of the Americas. For pictures from the project, type in ‘#ixtzib’ on Instagram. I was imagining an ancient scribe of that empire, a text worker in a temple there. I thought of a modern-day self, working in the production of words from this gleaming building of writing, a text worker in this current empire, far less spiritual, really not at all. I thought of those two scribes meeting in one body, in this Maya Empire State. I thought I was losing the impulse to write because I was losing people in my life that had to do with writing. While researching the Maya and their writing, I remembered I am from an indigenous impulse to write, to build, to create, a glorious, terrible impulse, and the destruction by which it always seems accompanied.” 
Sheila Maldonado

Sheila Maldonado is the author of the poetry collection, that’s what you get (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2021). Born in Brooklyn to Honduran parents, she teaches English for the City University of New York and lives in El Alto Manhattan.

that's what you get 
(Brooklyn Arts Press, 2021)

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Thanks to R. Erica Doyle, author of proxy (Belladonna Books, 2013), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Watch a Q&A about Doyle’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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