I offered this prompt to my participants in Mexico last month. I often play songs as prompts, and this time I played “Los Ojitos Negros” (Little Black eyes, or “black eyes” said with affection or love). The lyrics to the song are below, in Spanish and in English. They’re from an album by The Chieftains titled, San Patricio and this song features Ry Cooder and the haunting harmonization of Los Cenzontles.
What I wrote in response follows.
Lyrics in Spanish:
Ojitos negros ¿adónde están que no los miro?
Me acuerdo de ellos, pego un suspiro,
¡ay ojitos negros, sabrá Dios dónde andarán!
esos ojitos son muy bonitos,
esos ojitos son muy hermosos,
esos ojitos son muy preciosos,
¡ay, ojitos negros, sabrá Dios dónde andarán!
Todos me dicen que por ahí andan,
que por ahí andan, por la estación
y yo los vi y ellos son
¡ay, ojitos negros! dueños de mi corazón.
Lyrics in English:
Black eyes are not where I look?
I remember them, hit a sigh,
Black eyes oh, God knows where they will walk!
those eyes are beautiful,
those eyes are very beautiful,
those eyes are very precious,
Ay, black eyes, God knows where they will walk!
Everyone tells me that walking around,
that out there walk, by the station
and I saw them and they are
Ay, black eyes! owners of my heart.
Tell me about your childhood
and I will tell you about mine.
I want to know how you were loved,
the nicknames your parents gave you,
the stories your mother used to read to you
I’ll tell you about lasagna,
Christmas morning, and the big
dog who guarded my playpen
who wouldn’t let my brothers near
even though they had raised him
from a puppy.
I want to know about the little
boy, not the gangly adolescent
or the hunky man in a jock strap.
Show me how you like to be held.
Describe the nights when you slept
soundly, voices of angels in your head,
like wind instruments telling you
everything that is lovable
everything that is safe.
Show me how to make
those little butter cookies,
how you press them with a fork
how you dust them
with powdered sugar
and it shows up white
on your beautiful brown face.
Show me how your mother’s hands
worked the dough, how they pressed
into it with that palm so familiar.
Show me the games you played
on long, lazy Saturday afternoons.
I’ll open to you the way I used to,
before I was worried about retirement
funds, or sun-damaged skin, or losing
my best friend to AIDs.
I’ll show you that part of me—
young, brave, confident—
the one who never lost anything
Before I compared myself to other
when my eyes were green
and I turned back handsprings
on the front lawn.
Before Madonna and ATMs
and Smartphones, when
there was just this little heart
and the small, perfect world
Tell me about yours.
I’ll look into your dark