Heartbreak and The Latin Deli

“And the heart, like a well-constructed little boat, will resume its course toward hope.” – Judith Ortiz Cofer, “To a Daughter I Cannot Console,” The Latin Deli

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Today in my Women in Literature class, as we broke into groups to discuss our latest anthology The Latin Deli, I couldn’t help but become drawn to its poem called “To a Daughter I Cannot Console.” Although I’m not by any means a fan of poetry, the works of Judith Ortiz Cofer really caught my attention, especially because of the real life situations and relationships that her book brings to light. In this particular poem, a woman (the speaker of the poem) tries to take care of her heartbroken teenage daughter. The speaker tries to explain to her daughter that things will be all right in the end, but naturally, the daughter does not believe this because of the pain she is currently going through.

Of course, when the speaker tries to remember the boy who broke her own heart at sixteen, she can barely even recall his face. Ultimately, she realizes that while “the storm surging within will abate – like all acts of God,” her daughter is still too young to realize this, and will have to undergo those hard feelings herself. As difficult as it is to watch her daughter endure such a disappointment, the speaker recognizes that her daughter will have to learn from life experience rather than merely a mother’s calming words.

The significant things in our lives are always changing. (Tweet this!) The things that are important to us on one day aren’t always the same things that are important to us a year later. When I look back at my high school experience, for example, I realize that the boy who broke my heart in a Spiderman costume right before Homecoming has become just a memory, a random story I’ve told a few friends in college (you can’t make these things up).

In other words, all of us have — at one point or another — been that sixteen-year-old girl, inconsolable over someone or something that has hurt us. But after the wounds have healed, we begin to forget that they were ever really there in the first place. We take on the role of the mother in the poem, optimistic that the passage of time will make everything better.

Therefore, when things haven’t gone our way, we have to keep on moving like that “well-constructed little boat,” and remind ourselves that soon enough, many of our disappointments will disintegrate into the stories we rarely think to tell.

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