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Library Events & Outreach

April's Poetry Corner

On April 29, readings in celebration of National Poetry Month by faculty poet Kathleen McClung, Engineering professor Maryam Khan, student poet Hilary Cruz Mejia, and faculty poet Katharine Harer brought 32 of us together for an hour listening and interesting discussion via Zoom.

McClung read from selections of her award winning book of poetry, A Juror Must Fold in on Herself, written during and following “the most difficult year of my life” as a forewoman on a manslaughter case, as well as some profound and nostalgic works from The Typists Play Monopoly and other works recalling her days of drive in movies with her family, and working as teen movie theater attendant. 


With March women’s history events postponed and Asian American Heritage month just beginning, Khan straddled both celebrations with a reading of favorite works by contemporary and historical voices in Punjabi literature. These included Pakistani poets Rupi Kaur (“I am the first woman of my lineage with freedom of choice”), Imtiaz Dharker, and Amrita Pritam.

Many of these poems formed a backdrop to the social blockade Khan’s own family experienced following the partition of India and Pakistan -- the division of the Punjab state -- after 1947 followed by the South Asian diaspora that brought Pakistani families Khan’s to the Bay Area. The virtual audience found beauty in a joint reading by Khan and Librarian Pia Walawalkar of “Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nuu” by Amrita Pritam, as Khan read in Punjabi and Walawalkar read the English translation. Representing their divided state, their family’s native countries “enemies,” the two demonstrated powerfully how poetry can be a healing force.

Poetry Club student leader Hilary Cruz Mejia read "La Subita," a powerful poem she'd recently composed in English and Spanish, followed by Harer's first reading of her new poem "Smile," dedicated to Hilary.

You can find a selection poems read aloud that day below:

-Jessica Silver-Sharp

Kathleen McClung: Poems

Hilary Cruz M.

La Subida

-Hilary Cruz M.

Hoy me fui a la cama

vi el techo girar

hecho tormenta

a las 2:05AM

tuve uno de esos sueños donde todo parece estar fuera de control

no encontraba la salida de la jaula en la que me encontraba

estaba atada, con la boca sellada

a lo lejos me gritaban bruja, me tiraban salmos para quitarme la impureza del alma.


Desperté agitada

el techo seguía girando

mis manos temblando

todo lo que podía ver era la habitación

hecha tormenta

la mente en blanco

olvidé conectar la mente con el cuerpo

mi alma sanaba

mientras mi cuerpo tendido en la cama se encontraba

sentí un soplo fuerte

me noqueó diciendo “hija, ve y duerme”

y de nuevo me encontré conmigo misma

con una mujer con escrituras en el cuerpo,

textos que le decían que hacer,

vestida en piel de jaguar,

con un símbolo Maya hecho collar,

me besó la frente

y de nuevo el soplo me noqueó diciendo “el secreto de tu vida está en nacer cada día”

la sorpresa mía fue cuando despertaba tendida en los brazos de mi padre me encontraba

supuse que todo esto se trataba de mi muerte,

una ilusión,

una obra de arte del subconsciente

la visita de Ixchel

la visita de mi padre

de mis ancestros

no se trataba de una pesadilla,

se trataba de salir del túnel que por años busqué salida

callar las voces en mi cabeza

abrazarme al tener frío

y salir de mi propia prisión.

. . .

La sensación de no poder mover los brazos ni el cuello ni las piernas, ni una parte del cuerpo, además de sentir una fuerte presión en el pecho, pero poder oír y ver, aunque sin poder mover los ojos, y que de tu boca no salga ningún sonido. En Latinoamérica, la subida del muerto es soñar que estás muerto pero consciente de que lo estás. La subida del muerto es una parálisis de sueño, donde el tiempo surge y la vinculación de este trastorno tradicionalmente experimenta la presencia de espíritus o viajes astrales. La mayoría de las veces la subida del muerto es provocada por exceso de estrés, ya que, al intentar dormir, el ser humano busca descansar y relajarse, sin embargo, cuando se tiene mucha presión, el cuerpo aun estando en reposo se mantiene en alerta al sentirse amenazado.



The Rise

-Hilary Cruz M.

Today I went to bed

I saw the ceiling spin

in the form of a storm

At 2:05AM

I had one of those dreams where everything seems to be out of control

I couldn’t find the exit of the cage

tied up, mouth sealed

In the distance they shouted at me, ‘witch!’

They threw psalms at me to remove the impurity from my soul


I woke up agitated

the ceiling kept shaking

My hands were shaking

all I could see was the room

made a storm

I forgot to connect my mind with my body

My soul healing

while my body was laying on the bed

I felt a strong blow

It knocked me out saying ‘daughter, go to bed and rest’

I found myself

with a woman with writings on her body,

texts telling her what to do, dressed in Jaguar skin,

a Mayan symbol made necklace

she kissed my forehead

and again, the blow knocked me out saying ‘the secret of your life is to reborn every day’

My surprise was when I woke up

I was lying in my father’s arms

I knew then, I was still in the dream

I assumed this was all about my death

an illusion

a work of art of the subconscious

Ixchel’s visit

my father’s visit

my ancestors

it wasn’t a nightmare

it was about leaving the tunnel that for years I looked for the exit

to silence the voices in my head

hug me when I am blue

and get out of my own prison.

. . .

The sensation of not being able to move the arms, the neck, the legs, or a part of the body, in addition to feeling a strong pressure on the chest, but being able to hear and see, but without being able to move the eyes, and that from your mouth no sound comes out. In Latin America, la subida del muerto the rise of the dead is to dream that you are dead. The rise of the dead is a sleep paralysis, where time arises, and the link of this disorder traditionally experiences the presence of spirits or astral travel. Most of the time the dead person’s rise is caused by excess stress, since when trying to sleep, the human body seeks to rest and relax. However, when there is a lot of pressure, the body is still at rest, and remains alert when feeling threatened.