Hola Senor, Hola Senora

It’s all-inclusive in the Dominican:
the piercing blue sky, the juicy green jungle,
the lavish resort with facades painted peach
and mint and buttery yellow—

all built to relax and pamper
while the maids push their carts down tile corridors,
their bodies tight from hours of labour
rewarded by a US dollar laid flat on a pillow.

In the dining room, voices
mingle with jangle of cutlery,
plates disappear under heaps of food:
eggs, omelettes, bacon, sausage, rice,
beans, pineapple, pancakes, passion fruit—

while I grow indignant with the server
who commands me to sit down please
when I bring my cup for him to fill,
instead of the other way around.

The Gringos drink vino tinto with breakfast,
numb their minds with Pina Coladas and
Banana Mamas and the doing of nothing
all day, while the animation crew sings
Hola Senor, Hola Senora by the swim up bar.

The mirage vanishes outside
guarded gates. Bus rumbles over
rutted roads lined with shacks
of palmwood and corrugated steel
painted peach and
mint and buttery yellow;

land disappears under heaps of refuse:
styrofoam, plastic, tin and rubber—
while a billboard of el Presidente
looms giant over a flutter of skirts and shirts and
cotton nighties draped over a barbed wire fence.
From across the street,
a set of black eyes follow mine
and like a travelling circus
it is I who is on display—

Hola Senor, Hola Senora
held prisoner inside my mouth.

~ Judy Walker

I am a first generation Canadian – a modern settler of the New World. My family arrived from Europe not by boat, but by plane 30 years ago and has grafted itself onto this vast land. I married the English language, while Czech remains my lover. I feed my passion for words in both languages. I’ve lived in Edmonton for the past 24 years and devote my life to my children, my husband and writing (not always in that order). I’ve had an essay published in the Globe and Mail and “Hola Senor, Hola Senora” and “Rebuilding” are my first published poems. I am currently working on a memoir of my first years in Canada as an teenaged immigrant.

“Rebuilding” is much closer to my heart. It took 29 years to materialize on the page and when it did, it took only a short while to write. While writing, I became a girl of 13, a new immigrant in Canada. A born and raised communist, I could not conceptualize freedom, did not share the overwhelming desire for freedom that prompted my parents to leave their homeland behind. I wrote the piece to reconnect with that part of me which was silenced when we arrived in Canada. The silence lived inside me for 30 years, without words. Through the poem, I succeeded in drawing out the child and at last, giving her a voice.

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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