Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
by Irene Pérez
On the first day of class, I introduce myself:
my name is Irene, I’m from Puerto Rico and
I live in Jersey City.
Spanish is my first language
when I’m among English speakers.
English is my polished language
when I’m among Spanish speakers.
But I don’t say all that.
Why am I here?
I am here because I want to
awaken the right side of my brain.
The left one won’t let me live a healthy life.
It is on the third day during a coffee break
that I confess: Ms. Greenberg,
I don’t care about drawing;
truth is, I’m a pothead. Inhaling the stuff
is the only way I can silence
la maldita izquierda.
Smiling and turning her gaze upwards,
Ms. Greenberg exhales her own brand of cigarette;
she’s from L.A. and we both have curly hair.
I wonder if she’d tell her own teacher back home
(the woman who created right-side-brain drawing)
that her technique
is being used for healing on this side of the U.S.
I ask her what she thinks Betty
Ford would say to that —
replacing grass for drawing.
The name is Betty Edwards,
Ms. Greenberg corrects me,
extinguishing the faintly lit bud.
“Let’s go make some pictures now.”
Yes, I respond.
This left lobe is a loud ticking clock,
a mushy bureau with drawers opening and
closing like a Dalí painting.
Did he paint about the left with the right,
Ms. Greenberg?
Can that be done in thirty minutes,
and what would you call it?
Sshh, she says, tapping the right side
of my head with three gentle knocks,
the way one is supposed to awake
a somnambulist. She panics for a split 
second and switches the beat to the
left side of my head.
Things get crossed inside, she explains.
Sure enough, time is forsaken:
it is suddenly the last day of class
when we sit in front of a mirror and draw
The Self.
Straight lines are easy,
even when angles shoot out,
we students discuss.
Your pencils leave proof of what you see
not of what you think,
the teacher teaches.
Measure a line at a time and keep it
(the pencil) sharpened with a good eraser at hand.
I raise my voice.
I can’t draw my round nose, Ms. Greenberg.
It’s not a nose, Rene.
(I forgive her for changing my name because
a name is a noun is a word is a left brain.)
A nose is not a nose, she explains
walking towards me.
It’s curves with degrees of light.
But when she inspects my profile
to help me with this 
most difficult part of the face,
she declares I have a pudgy nose.
Suddenly, Spanish returns as my first language.
What’s that, pudgy? I ask.
It goes up a bit. It’s cute, Ms. Greenberg
assures me, pinching it,
leaving a dust of graphite on the tip.
I blush and she walks away.
At home I look over my work.
The self-portrait portrays a
wide face with shadows under my eyes
and big ears that run the length of my cheeks.
The eyebrows arch like an
eternal question mark,
a few strayed hairs marking the lid.
And at the edge of my mouth
two slowly imbedding lines
are beginning their travel down.


Irene Pérez obtained a Master’s degree in Spanish at Hunter College and a Bachelor’s degree in Writing at Columbia University. Her poems and short stories have 
appeared in The Olive Tree Review, The Américas Review, The Bilingual Review, Long Shot, Centro Journal, Mangrove and Gulfstreaming. She has also written book 
reviews for Latingirl Magazine and Críticas. She has taught Latino Literature and Spanish at Hudson County Community College. She now lives in Cornwall, New York. 

Copyright   ©   2004    Entelechy: Mind & Culture.  All rights reserved.