Well, neighbor, this land lies barren
where we’ve paced back and forth,
and weed-choked everywhere else.
I’m proud that we’ve negotiated,
and that we haven’t fought,
that no blood has been shed
on our disputed boundary line.
I know I promised to keep King Christian
safe in my pocket on his Danish coin,
but I lost it on the Greyhound bus
between Chicago and L.A.
You are always twenty-six.
I feel your heart in the beat of wind-
shield wipers and rain on the roof.
Shomerim* at Birkenau
*guardians or keepers of the dead
Tagged with the numbers scarred
on my grandmother’s arm, I step through
the open gate once barred against her.
At the edge of the ocean
I find my center –
the swell and dip of rhythmic waves
journeying from place
to place, never stopping, never
reaching any home –
worrying, teasing the shore then off
For many career women success means achieving not just professional recognition but also a fulfilling family life and personal happiness. But what is the price is paid by a career women and other women leaders in the diversity of culture they represent? There are many different answers to this question and the diverse cultures are key. My answer comes from the perspective of a Latina working for a Fortune 500 company who also constantly feels the need to challenge cultural differences in leadership styles. At the same time, it’s coming from a person who looks for life work balance, whether that means enjoying time in the kitchen cooking my favorite traditional cuisine, or impressing upon my children the value and importance of their multicultural background.
“Anything you can do I can do better” was an unspoken refrain of the interviews I conducted with immigrant women leaders, researching my upcoming book. Their combined brilliance nearly triggered my inferiority complex. How come they did SO MUCH better than me? I’d ask myself (I typically take everything personally).
A lethargic breeze rose and ebbed with the tide, not quite cooling my beaded neck. I lifted my hair and wrapped it in a tight knot, so it wouldn’t cling like sticky fingers on my bare shoulders. It was low tide. Beyond the rocky terrain, the ocean muttered darkly, withholding its customary exuberance; I walked as close to the retaining wall as possible, making room for the “real “walkers until I came upon a lone man seated on the wall, an open carton of food balanced between his legs. Discreetly I moved away, noting out of the corner of my eyes, it wasn’t actually food, but more than half of a very large, creamy cake, the frothing, chocolate and other unknown sugary stuff oozing out of the box and dribbling on to the sidewalk like dog feces.
I have often tried to encourage my children to read. They are boys. They clamber on furniture, roll on rugs, tear into their surroundings secure in the knowledge that the new dawn will have reined in the chaos, cleared the debris they scatter wherever it may fall, with fresh ground for play. I want them to be still for a bit. Sit down, I want to say to them. Sit down and get acquainted with the passing thought, the laughter before it leaves the throat, the sigh before it escapes your lips. Having learned the art of sitting still, you can move.