Photo Essay by María DeGuzmán

Water Meditation on Grief 

Hoof Raised in a Symmetry of Fear  © 2018 by María DeGuzmán

Hoof Raised in a Symmetry of Fear © 2018 by María DeGuzmán

 This is how it happens. On an azure sky afternoon with mauve and cream clouds. Out of the blue, the unthinkable strikes. What one did not wish to think was possible, though we were within its orbit the whole time. Like the dark side of the moon waxing full. Under this moon, the black sun of the unthinkable heralds from an ordinary spoon, raises a hoof in a symmetry of fear … fear of our complete vulnerability to loss and absence.

Amphibious Monkey  © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

Amphibious Monkey © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

You are no longer here. Or, you are no longer here in the way you used to be. I cannot see you or touch you. I drown and float in a sea of death. Between continents. In the middle of a dark ocean illuminated only by the moon revealing the outline of a body I do not recognize, a hand with fingers made of undulating pain.

Alien Gaze  © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

Alien Gaze © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

In the hours I make it on to dry land, the world is alien to me. Alien to me without you. I walk miles, tightly wrapped. The light all around me might be brilliant, tinged with gold and silver, with sunbeams streaming down. But, I am covered from head to toe in darkness and look upon this world with a cold, alien gaze.

Figure Walking  © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

Figure Walking © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

What warmth remains comes from the image of you walking in your black coat, walking as if through smoke and fire or through a storm. Like the huddled figures in Goya’s painting La Nevada (The Snowstorm). Strangely, you look peaceful, focused, your head lowered toward your arms hugging your body as if holding something precious. These images allow me to close my alien eyes and dream again.

By the River  © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

By the River © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

After a long, dreamless night, I fall asleep and dream that I am standing on a riverbank and then floating in the air above sunlit water. I am dressed in black. You are there, standing beside me, also in black. We are waiting for others to join us. I have this dream just before waking. And so I remember it.

Silver Song  © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

Silver Song © 2017 by María DeGuzmán

A few months later, when I am falling asleep, I hear you speaking to me. We are conversing, and I forget that you have died. If I wake up, I remember, startled each time by that realization. And later on, your voice seems to emerge from an ocean of sound, waves cresting here and there, as I sing.


Dr. María DeGuzmán is Director of Latina/o Studies ( and Professor of English & Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has authored two scholarly books, Spain’s Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire (University of Minnesota Press, 2005) and Buenas Noches, American Culture: Latina/o Aesthetics of Night (Indiana University Press, 2012). She has published many articles on Latina/o cultural production as well as some of her own short stories and poems. She is also a conceptual photographer and a music composer / sound designer.

For samples of her music, go to:

Note: DeGuzmán obtained the photographic images accompanying this article by stirring water around in a tiny bowl and photographing the interaction between sunlight and/or daylight and the moving water. She employed several kinds of cameras to do this: her cellphone camera as well as a Nikon D7000 with an AF Micro Nikkor 105mm lens. © 2017 & 2018 by María DeGuzmán.

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