Nina Serrano








To Die of Joy in the River


To die of joy in the river

sighs the drop

falling falling in the greater water

One drop of many rushing to the ocean

flowing along in the mingling

No longer a drop but a mass

rippling current swift

No longer a drop but a sea

then a mighty splash of spray

evaporating ahh to rebirth as a raindrop ahhh

and again to die of joy in the river



I‘ve always known


I’ve always known

not to touch the third rail

nor have I touched it

nor an electric cord with wet hands

These prohibitions deeply ingrained

like love of chocolate

awe of birds

wonder of shape changing clouds

sketching themselves on heaven’s easel

and that you can visit heaven

without dying.



The Muse of Translation


The muse of translation born when the first uttered word

imitated the sound of a brook, a bird, a raindrop

Repeated sounds creating language

translating echoes of thought, feeling, warning


Words filled the planet louder than thunder

so many syllables so many tongues

so the lovers could understand

so the worshippers could honor the Beloved.

The utterances of one slipped into the minds of many

Touching lip to lip into communicated concepts

Rubbing skin to skin into action


The Muse of translation lit the moistened passages

awakened the senses

liquefying thick ideas

making this world

This glorious world we must all one day leave

Only our words still wandering

through time remaining

erasing boundaries, borders, walls

that tremble, tumble and fall

in the embrace of the word

transformed in the sighs,

moans, and exclamations of translation

Linking body to body

in the four directions

of the one human race.



Open Heart/Closed Border

For Maruja Gonzalez, family and friends


A few nights ago surrounded by family

my friend of 46 years died

before the pain of disease descended

On the last night she ate dinner

enjoyed a telenovela and went to sleep

in her own bed with a smile

A blessing for her and so sad for me

My government’s Cuba policy

won’t allow me to find solace

for my grief by standing with

her children, grandchildren,

and large loving family and friends

I can’t put my arms around them or

hold their hands in silent mourning

My government forbids them

to come to my house

and in my garden

find comfort and condolence


Her ashes are interred in Cuba

a forbidden land by US law

The Royal Palms sway in the warm tropical wind

but I cannot stand in their shadow


My heart journeys without visa or passport

melting over borders and time

I see Maruja her eyebrows arching knowingly

with a hint of doubt and humor

She is smiling at me

We are young women again

She is holding a tray of tiny expresso cups

Sandals flip flopping across the cool tile floor

in a house dress or

high heels clicking above a trim ankle

swathed in company-best

She sits at the piano

songs ripple under her fingers

Delicious food sizzles in a frying pan

light and perfectly seasoned

The aroma wafting through

the antique setting of the rooms

She is queen of her kitchen

and loves to be at home.


On the veranda the air is perfumed by flowers

On the table by the rocking chair

a worn deck of cards sit

their faces faded

She prefers them to the newer decks I bring

She expertly shuffles the cards

I don’t want to see the Ace of Death

but it is always there

with the diamonds, clubs,

and hearts

It is always there waiting

to complete life’s game.


My government thinking that life has winners

bans travel to Cuba


while ignoring the challenge of global species extinction

Never mind the warm Caribbean, white sands,

riches of music painting film poetry architecture

healing geo-thermal baths innovative medical treatments

and the spiritual Orishas hovering in the brush

urging eco-friendly agriculture

My friend’s ashes enrich the soil

that our friendship without end-

grows upon





Autumn flames into being

so quietly that it feels like summer

with just a yellow streak on the tall stalks

the trees thinning so slightly

You want to hold on to summer

its fruits and flowery lushness

But there is that force again

so much greater than what you want

what you wish

what you crave

Bigger than how you think things should be

or the way they could be

if only what you wish

what you want

what you crave

had the power of gravity

the voice of thunder

the flash of lightening for catching attention

You can’t paste a fallen leaf back on a branch

it doesn’t work

nor personal magnetism

The seasons move on

changing conditions

you just have to cope with as best you can

mobilizing energy and movement

with stillness

Sunsets move slowly across the sky

sunrise awakens new birds

as geese in formation change direction

honking farewell in their flight

and you stay rooted in this ground

looking around to see what’s to come.



Advent of the Winter Solstice


My Dear, What shall we do through the longest night

when the moon and the star remain in the sight

and dawn hovers in the wings

waiting for its interminable cue


My Dear we will be posted at our computers

catching the hem of the skirt

of every passing muse

in the dust of time

in this longest moonshine

brewing an elixir of memory and metaphor

Our fingers will capture it

letter by space bar

Verses sent off by electrical force we don’t understand

Our words bumping into others’ words flying

through cyber space

will create a universe of poetry in cyber clouds

of ever expanding immensity

of ever expanding immensity

becoming finite in the print-out of  pages.












Nina Serrano is a poet, translator, and independent media producer. Her latest book, “Heart’s Journey” released in 2013 is available at and online. In 2013, Nina translated “Wild Animal” by Peruvian poet, Adrian Arias. In 2012, she translated his science fiction work “Beautiful Trash.” She is most excited about her new website and blog:

Her earlier collected poems “Heart Songs” are available in print and electronically. Nina Serrano is a KPFA-fm host/radio producer of “La Raza Chronicles” and “Open Book.” She has been the director of both Poetry in the Schools and Storytelling in the Schools programs.

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