Reading 'Heart's Migration' by Linda Rodriguez

Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)
by Linda Rodriguez
150 pp. $14.95. ISBN: 978-1-882688-37-1.

Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009), by Linda Rodriguez, maps the various flights, destinations, arrivals, detours, and dangers of a woman’s life (as self, daughter, wife, lover, and mother). Rodriguez captures these migrations with a winged sense of narrative and a moth-light touch of confessionalism.

The first section of this book explores spirituality and writing through the figures of mythological women. Poems celebrate the fierce passion and power of Hecate, Persephone, Demeter, Arjuna, Eurydice, Eve, and Isis. Other poems speak to the influence of women’s writing, mentioning Emily Dickinson, Katherine Anne Porter, and Virginia Woolf. All these figures teach the author something about her spirituality, passion, and deep-rooted strength. These lessons are articulated in the poem “In the Dark of the Year”:

I have heard the brittle cry of the phoenix.

Though it leads me

into hidden depths

at every turn,

I have not seen it,

even from the corner of my eye, a flash

of night, deeper, darker,

more dazzling than the inky center of my self. (23)

The second section leads us away from the spiritual and “inky” depths to the more ordinary and intimate moments of the speaker’s life. The strongest poems revolve around romance and lovemaking—what Rodriguez calls “skin hunger.” These poems express a straightforward sensuality and disarming honesty. This confessional honesty is powerfully expressed in “Caveat Emptor”:

This is serious business.

I can’t pretend to you.

I discard window dressing,

displaying all of me before you.

Not trying to hide

or fix up flaws, from stretch marks to scars

of old loves.

Everything inside me—

from bones to dreams—

has been cracked and mended. (50)

The third section takes an interesting turn, as the first twelve poems adopt the figure of “Coyote,” with titles such as “Coyote in High School,” “Coyote at Your Wedding,” “Coyote Invades Your Dreams.” Coyote seems to embody certain “bad boy” emotions and desires: “Coyote takes you / where no one else can. / Coyote takes you / where you can’t admit you want to go” (72). These poems create an interesting depth of field alongside the confessional poems as they create a more distanced form of confession.

The final section of this book returns us to the theme of love and its burning passion in “the hidden language of skin to skin” (124). The title poem, “Heart’s Migration,” contours the journey of love through the metaphor of a butterfly’s migration. The poem begins: “Setting out to a destination, unknown / but desired and dreamed.” The speaker determines to follow “the pulse of passion, the true magnetic pull” (130):

So I wing my way across the cloud-tossed sky

toward a place I’m not even sure exists

except in my imagination and my heart—

unless my flight on faith alone is enough

to bring love’s sanctuary into being. (131)

The speaker emphasizes the dangers of love, connecting this danger to the fact that many monarch butterflies do not survive their long, difficult migration. The theme of survival is prevalent throughout this book: surviving divorce, surviving the threat of domestic abuse, surviving familial and romantic relationships. Despite the difficulties, the speaker shows that the strength of the heart will help you endure the necessary migrations of life. In the poem, “Be Strong of Heart,” Rodriguez writes: “Heart is the principal muscle of the body.” To the poet, the heart is not only an internal organ, but it is also “the darkest continent, unmapped and dangerous / in the interior, which is why we too often / stay on the surface, / safe from the wild center” (116). Rodriguez, in these poignant poems, takes us to the wild interiors of the heart’s unmapped terrains.