Rhina P. Espaillat


Just Stopping

The god in whom I once believed
showed up last night beside my bed,
and sat down at the foot. I said,
“What a surprise! Lord, I’m relieved
that you’re not dead!”

He shrugged. “I have good days and bad.
When I was Zeus, what clout I had!
These days, it’s all about complaints.
What thanks we get—it makes me mad—
goes to the saints

for curing stuff and granting things,
as if Creation were a mall
where every merchant has his stall.
And arguments: You’re made of strings,
you’re a big ball

of motion, you’re a state of mind,
you’re mathematics… on and on.”
Now I could see his face was lined
like that of some old Mafia don
whose turf is gone.

And he looked tired, which, truth to tell,
He’d have to be by now, and bored,
unlike his counterpart in Hell,
and only fitfully adored.
He wasn’t well.

I told him, “Look, you need some sleep;
lie down; I’ll wake you when it’s day,
and make you breakfast, if you stay.”
But mumbling “…promises to keep…,”
he paled away.

When light returned, I knew I’d done
less than I should. But then, he’d run
too soon to hear what or how much
I might have said: Thanks for the sun,
or Stay in touch.


purpleLRhina P. Espaillat has published poems, essays, short stories, and translations in numerous magazines and over 60 anthologies, in both English and her native Spanish, as well as three chapbooks and eight full-length books, including three in bilingual format. Her most recent are a poetry collection in English, Her Place in These Designs (Truman State University Press, Kirksville, 2008), and a bilingual collection of her short stories, El olor de la memoria/The Scent of Memory (Ediciones CEDIBIL, Santo Domingo, D. R., 2007).

Her honors include the Wilbur Award, the Nemerov Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize in Poetry, the Robert Frost “Tree at My Window” Award for Translation, the May Sarton Award, a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from Salem State College, and several prizes from the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Culture, the New England Poetry Club, and the Poetry Society of America.

Espaillat lives in Newburyport, MA with her sculptor husband, Alfred Moskowitz; there she is active with the Powow River Poets, a well known literary group she co-founded some 20 years ago. She also performs with a group known as Melopoeia—comprised of poet Alfred Nicol, guitarist and composer John Tavano, and vocalist Ann Tucker, which has presented numerous and varied programs that combine poetry and music—most recently at West Chester University and the House of the Seven Gables.