Perimeter College and

The Georgia Poetry Circuit present

Poetry Readings by Virgil Suárez

Newton Campus
Monday, 30 January 2017
Building 2N, Room 2100
10 a.m.
Clarkston Campus
Monday, 30 January 2017
JCLRC Auditorium (L1100)
2:30 p.m.

Dunwoody Campus

Tuesday, 31 January 2017
Building B, Room 2100/2101
11:30 a.m.

Newton Campus
Tuesday, 31 January 2017
Building 2N, Room 1100
2:30 p.m.



Reception and book signing to follow.

The readings will be free and open to the public.



Virgil Suárez, NEA recipient and award-winning author, was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1962. He arrived  in the United States in 1974. Although educated in the United States from the age of twelve, Suárez has been preoccupied with the themes of immigration, exile, and acclimatization to life and culture in the United States. His work, in one way or another, reflects these themes of dislocation and uprooting. His poems have appeared in many national and international literary journals, such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, and The Southern Review. Suárez is the author of over twenty books, including several novels as well as story and poetry collections: 90 Miles: Selected & New Poems (U of Pittsburgh P, 2005), Landscapes & Dreams (Louisiana Literature P, 2003), Guide to the Blue Tongue (University of Illinois, 2002), and Banyan (Louisiana State UP, 2001.) He is currently a full professor of creative writing at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Selected Poems




Cousin Irene worked in the cold of a warehouse
basement in New Jersey, soldering the filaments
to GE lightbulbs. The job required steady hands,
without gloves, bare fingers for sensitivity,
and her hands cramped up eventually, after six
hours or so, but the workday lasted ten or twelve,
in so much cold. This was her life for several
years in America—back home, in Cuba, she’d been
a chicken sexer, a botanist caring for orchids,
a potato peeler, a cigar ring paster, a picker
of papayas—all as a volunteer worker because she
wanted to leave the country. So in Trenton,
Union City, Elizabeth, at least she got paid




for the work she did with her hands, though her
choices continued to be blue-collar work, and she
thanked god for her hands, her reliable hands,
so necessary. She came to the United States
through the Peter Pan Project as a teenager
with the promise of a scholarship to an all-girl
boarding school in Kentucky, which never
materialized—she got as far as New Jersey.
Here, at night, she came home from the factory
and soaked her hands in warm soapy water.
She looked on as her fingers moved, these tendrils
of her once young hands—blessed these ten digits
that rooted her life to so much work and possibility.


When we first arrived in the United States
from Franco’s Spain, everything we encountered

or bought had “free” written on it.
The boxes of cereal spoke of a free mystery

surprise, the junk mail came bundled,
and somehow that word sang to us.

My father and I got wise—the word
became cheap, untrustworthy, hollow.

Having been fooled before, we knew what “free”
really meant. We learned lessons the hard way;

nothing free ever came so easily, but my mother—
who had heard stories of people throwing

out television sets, sofas, washing machines,
perfectly good chairs—believed in this land

of plenty where people discarded simply
because things were old or someone

had grown tired of them. She believed
in all that was cast to the curb. A cousin

who cruised the neighborhood streets
for these free goods told her of his finds

over the telephone. On the weekends,
she sent my father and me out to hunt,

to find these throwaways, but we always
came back empty-handed. We never

really looked. We stopped for donuts
or to watch a baseball game at the park.

Now, years later, my father dead, my mother
gets the mail, the catalogs, and she sends

it all up to me in Tallahassee, and she’s circled
the word “free” and asks me what the deal is.

Most Sundays I try to convince her once
and for all that there are no deals, that nothing

is free, then there’s silence over the line,
and I can hear her thinking otherwise.

She is a woman who wants to cling to something
as simple as a two-for-one deal, the extra, the much

more, lo gratis: these simple things she knows
have kept us going all these exiled years.


that isn’t mine. Her syllables
smiles & the wit of another
woman’s neck lingering
in the lining. Sweetness
& irony & how you couldn’t
tell, in the dark, you could wear
something so intimate
& otherwise? Hearing her
hands & breasts & ribs
murmur inside of the down.
The feathers you now
warm with your own
body. Inseparable
as the music we shared
as we danced,
the holiday like flecks
of tinsel caught under
the god’s tongue. Julie,
I hope you’ll forgive
me for wanting to
verse your instrument,
& how, when Brooklyn
wasn’t looking, I made
angels against the air,
our skin, like words slipped back
beyond midnight & knowing
I have no other way
to bear my life, you
laugh at the café
where we meet
& tell me
when we give
our coats back
with wonder
for ourselves
that the dance
was so lovely
your legs hurt
in the morning.



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