Fleeing war to find a safer life: ‘Flesh Wounds’ is an excellent poetic memoir

En Carne Propia: Memoria Poética
Flesh Wounds: A Poetic Memoir

Jorge Argueta

Arté Publico Press, paperback

Jorge Argueta was a youth trying to have a normal childhood in an impoverished El Salvador neighborhood known as the Colonia Ameríca. But the Salvadoran Civil War (October 15, 1979 – January 16, 1992) was going on. And Jorge lived in a rural neighborhood “teeming with drunkards, prostitutes, servants, popsicle vendors, mechanics–the working-class or the poorest of the poor.” In his area, there also were supporters of some of the guerrilla groups fighting the government army. Jorge became a member of one group that managed to steal a pistol from a guard and also set fire to a bus.

When the army finally came to his neighborhood, the teenager had just two stark choices: stay and die (a few people from his neighborhood already had been killed) or flee for his life. Jorge ran, made it over the El Salvador border into Mexico and, four months later, made it to the United States and a safer life in San Francisco.

Argueta is now the author of more than 20 books, and his latest, Flesh Wounds: A Poetic Memoir, is a short but intense blending of prose and poetry. Each chapter opens with one or two pages of prose that delve into his childhood memories, his escape and then his struggles to adapt to American life. These chapter-opening pages then are followed by groupings of poems that give deeper expression and clarity to his memories.

Flesh Wounds: A Poetic Memoir actually is two books in one: the Spanish version, En Carne Propia: Memoria Poética, and the English version.

This two-in one structure provides an excellent arrangement for readers who are learning Spanish or English or who are trying to maintain fluency in both tongues. Yet even if you are unable to read one of the book’s two languages, you can find much to enjoy and to ponder within the pages.

Jorge Argueta’s En Carne Propia / Flesh Wounds demonstrates clearly that he is a superb writer and poet.

 — Si Dunn

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