Letter to Lorca by Nicole Henares

Letter to Lorca by Nicole Henares

Dear Lorca,

I can feel a pimple forming on my chin. I am 39 years old and still struggling with acne. It is said you struggled with this too. But the fascists murdered you at 38 and you never lived to see 39. They also murdered my cousin Paco. He was a doctor in Sevilla, and a communist. I wonder if he read your poetry. Or heard of your last play, Dreams of My Cousin Aurelia, and thought of his cousin, my great-grandmother, Rosario, who stole from her employers to feed him through medical school. Families, forever entwined.

And it is from Paco, or rather Paco’s son, that I have this chandelier above me. It illuminates the room I am writing you this letter in. A dead man is more alive in Spain than anywhere else because of family. Because of my family I have a house of my own and the chandelier, my grandmother’s chandelier that started the consciousness of the stories I tell, the one that was given to her by the son of her mother’s cousin, is now illuminating the room I write. Literally and metaphorically and without irony. This is the chandelier with the lights I’d beg my grandmother to turn on, and when they sparkled I danced around the living room pretending I was on the Lawrence Welk show. The memories are embedded into my consciousness.

And then she died, and left me this chandelier, an understanding of love, death, and heritage. I was seven years old. At first everyone whispered that the strange disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, was from all the years working in the canneries. Then they speculated it was from the soil of the sugar plantations. The exact cause is still a mystery, with only death as a lonely absolute.

Hence, I write to cheat death. I write to cheat the loneliness that is death. When I sit down to write, the words come from a soundless abyss of death, of loneliness. I can hear Jack Spicer tell me to embrace them both. I can hear him saying, “your vocabulary did this to you!” I feel that there is so much more for me to write, that there are things that I have yet to discover about myself in the process of creation. And time is quick.

I am 39, the new year comes in another month, and in another nine months my 40th birthday. I have swirled and twirled for forty years amid physical temptations, and love, in all its forms.

Lorca, I prayed to you on what would have been your 115th birthday, June 5th, and you answered me. I imagined what would have happened had Langston Hughes helped you escape from Spain and come to Monterey where he was living. I wondered what you would have thought of the Andalusian women like my grandmother who worked in the canneries. It is this thought that helps me continue.

Yours was a life cut too short. 38 years old and killed by fascists. I am 39 years old, and very much alive with a pimple on my chin. I write as my debt to you, to loneliness, to death, and to heritage.

Aurelia Lorca

Aurelia Lorca is the pen-name of a woman from the borderlands of the Monterey Peninsula who has been motionless in the twist of time. The title character of poet Federico García Lorca’s last play, Dreams of My Cousin Aurelia, Aurelia Lorca was a character who lived in literature, and yet was supposed to receive a cathartic slap in the face to place her in the present. However, her creator was murdered by fascists at the start of the Civil War in 1936, and he could not finish the play. Aurelia Lorca has been reborn from the mind, heart, and pen of Nicole Henares – an American writer who is the granddaughter of Andalusian immigrant cannery workers, and the daughter of civil rights workers. Her writing largely focuses on questions of ethnicity and identity and often reassembles narratives from histories which have been forgotten as a way to remember.