2019 Spring Contest Winner: 3rd Place, Traditional Form–Ghazal

Hiraeth from an Oregon beach to a lost island

by Amelia Díaz Ettinger

I return to the image of a sky that devoured an ocean,

and an ocean that splits my ghosts from the living.


Not by cloud or breath can I touch those faces,

faded along with their voices, a choice I made for living.


Their memories crowded, too much noise and too many soft touches,

shattered echoes that bounce on waves no longer full of living.


Even the violent whitecaps, as brief as a wet eyelash,

eventually disappear in a blink, but leave an imprint on the living.


Maybe, it is the cold sand under my feet, a cruel reminder

of rooms filled with jovial conversations fit for living.


How many shades of blue are needed to fill a landscape?

How many waves can drown the sound of the un-living?


A cold breeze that hints of fog clashes with an imaginary trade wind,

viento alisio, heat discarded like gossamer through the travels of the living.


An Oregon beach where palm trees are made with sand and wishes

and allure from rocks that jut over the surface, exposing the frailty of living.


Where in the vastness of sand, heat, and ego do shades of people go?

Each grain forgotten, bleached, if not for the remembrances of the living.


My father’s soft gentle hand, my uncle’s unbearable guitar, En mi Viejo San Juan

floating on these distant waters away from the island, alone, and un-living.


Even the names shimmer, Asunción, Amelia, Esperanza, floating like plankton

on ocean waves awaiting sounds to be whispered, shouted, from those still living.


Judge’s comments

A wistful tone, evocative imagery, depth of feeling—this poem spins me around in its breezes and trade winds. I’m especially moved by the urgency of the questions posed by the speaker and the mournful juxtaposition of two beloved but vastly different beaches.  

—Kathleen McClung

Poet bio

Amelia Díaz Ettinger is a Mexican born, Puerto Rican raised poet who has lived most of her adult life in Oregon. Redbat books published her first book of poetry, Speaking at a Time, in 2015. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Willawaw Journal, Windfall, Speaking of Ourselves: Women of Color Anthology, and Oregon East Magazine.

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