American Life in Poetry

Sasha Pimentel​’s poem is a splen­did exam­ple of the poet­ic device called the con­ceit, which refers to an extend­ed metaphor, and of course, the image here is the vio­lin. Yet the title of the poem is tak­en from Ari­zo­nan Stel­la Pope Duarte’s nov­el about vio­lence against women set in Juárez, the Mex­i­can bor­der-city, which makes this image of a silenced instru­ment quite haunt­ing and unsettling.

If I Die in Juárez

The violins in our home are emptied

of sound, strings stilled, missing

fingers. This one can bring a woman down

to her knees, just to hear again

its voice, thick as a callus

from the wooden belly. This one’s strings

are broken. And another, open,

is a mouth. I want to kiss

them as I hurt to be kissed, ruin

their brittle necks in the husk of my palm,

my fingers across the bridge, pressing

chord into chord, that delicate protest–:

my tongue rowing the frets, and our throats high

from the silences of keeping.