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Isa de Quesada

isaheadMy work reflects my heritage and my coming to understand who I am as an immigrant in the US, and as a woman with two cultures. I was born in Cuba, came to the US at 6 after traveling from Cuba to Jamaica to Mexico. I received my BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from UCI and my MA in English from National University. I have been teaching English in Santa Ana since 1984. I currently teach American Literature and Creative Writing. I am in the process of completing my first novel. My website is:


They call me white;

I do not feel white.

They call me Cuban;

I do not feel Cuban.

They call me American;

I do not feel American.

They call me female;

I do not feel feminine.

At six, someone without a face asked,

“What are you?”

I did not understand.

The faceless someone asked,

“Where are you from?”

I said, “The Universe.”

At 44, I understand:

I am from the one verse

The one Word, first and only cause,

That moved me into being me.

At 44, I feel feminine.

I feel my womanhood rising over

My thighs, over my curved hips

That can hook two children and

So much more,

Rising up over my waist

Like the full moon

Up to my breasts

Over mountains, and rivers, and lands forgotten.

At 44 I claim my femininity

And it rises out of forgotten ashes;

Family secrets that are not in photo albums

Or on the faces of my ancestors;

But in the unspoken words

Kept in closets, swept under rugs

Left behind in Cuba

Boarded up windows so no one could see

What has been held for generations in my genes.

These breasts did not feed my daughters.

These breasts filled up with milk

The doctor said was unfit for the twins.

These breasts hardened and remained dormant;

Heavy and unfit because they had too much silicon.

Unfit because my mother never breast fed me.

Unfit because my grandmother never breast fed her three children.

Unfit because Mami told my mom that breast milk kills.

Unfit because my great great grandmother had killed her children

Breast feeding.

So five generations of her story

Came out of the mouth of my doctor:

My breast are unfit to feed my daughters.

Came out of the mouth of the doctor

That took my mother’s left breast away.

“Cancer,” she said and off with the breast.

“It did not kill your child but it will kill you.”

Off with the breast.

Five generations and the story became herstory

running deep in her veins like an IV

drip every second deeper into her blood stream

until herstory killed her.

At 44, I release the toxins of herstory;

Five generations is enough!

At 44, I celebrate my breasts

I know my breasts are fit to breast feed, to love, to dance.

I celebrate my feminine curves with the conga dances that emphasize them.

I celebrate the Cuban in me.

At 44 I feel Cubana.

I celebrate five generations of Silence.

I find their voice in deep blues and tropical greens.

I celebrate the voice of my ancestors.

I feel their voice rising from my solar plexus into my throat.

It stirs within me like the waters of a river

Moving along the banks with deep intention

Contemplating the down slope, currents thrusting against the rocks

Slowly widening, opening up into my mouth,

I am caught in the vortex of my ancestors’ rhythm.

I flow into this moment, a bridge for the universe

With a verse that moves, and dances in me…

I feel the universe moving in me.


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