Story of Manang Berta


Manang Berta is known in Corcuerra:

Laundry woman, ironing woman, streetsweeper, nanny, maid,

An insignificant worth.

She has a shack at the other side of the river,

Above the dry estuary.

Believe that she is

The only one who can fit here---

A little roof, some boards slightly raised above the earth

So that she can rest,

Confined by four thin cardboard walls,

As if she is playing house.

As if she rests in a dilapidated coffin.


Why she refuses to be a domestic.

She is made offers by whoever,

Those without a maid, those who are sympathetic.

They say she wants to go to her own home.

It makes a difference when you are free.

Even a small income is enough,

She is quite happy being alone.


Each child is her grandchild.

She has a response for every curiosity.

Only about her life

Are Manang Berta's lips sealed.


She teaches us

About riddles and legends,

Her innocent eyes full of knowledge.

Corcuerra's television, comics, too,

Her legacy fuses into our development.

There is a tender scene at the dry estuary,

Every afternoon while the old woman tells stories.

A picture without a frame,

Dark as my shadow.


Manang Berta is now dead,

A resounding departure

Hollow for the sincerity of memory.


One sullen evening

As the entire Corcuerra rests in dream's twilight,

The half-awakened estuary becomes turbulent.

It shakes the town with rampaging waters.

First it washes away the simplistic shack

Then rattles it

Until it crashes and crumbles.

Manang Berta, Manang Berta,

No one remembers Manang Berta,

Each struggles for their own survival during this calamity.


It causes us shame

Whenever her name is uttered.