That was my first introduction to poetry. Old poets. Lot’s of ‘thee’s and thou’s,” and too much Old English stuff.
I was a studious person, more logical than emotional, so many poems went over my head.
That was until I went to college, in the mid ’70’s. It was an eyeopener when I read the profound words of contemporary poets Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni, who spoke of racism and the strength of women.
I found only two Chicano/Mexican American poets, both male: Alurista and the political activist, Rudulfo “Corky” Gonzales.
Yo Soy Joaquin, I am Joaquin, gripped me from the beginning.
This bilingual poem, published in 1967, summarized Mexican and Mexican American history, from the exploitation of the natives through colonial times, to the present. The poem served as a nationalist ideology for political activism, using the historical events of the 19th Century social rebel, Joaquin Murrieta.
The poem was groundbreaking, revitalizing, and began a social movement. Since it is several pages long, here’s an excerpt from the middle of the poem:
I am Joaquin. I rode with Pancho Villa, crude and warm, a tornado at full strength, nourished and inspired by the passion and the fire of all his earthy people. I am Emiliano Zapata. “This land, this earth is OURS.” The villages, the mountains, the streams belong to Zapatistas. Our life or yours is the only trade for soft brown earth and maize. All of which is our reward, a creed that formed a constitution for all who dare live free! “This land is ours . . . Father, I give it back to you. Mexico must be free. . . .” I ride with revolutionists against myself. I am the Rurales, coarse and brutal, I am the mountian Indian, superior over all. The thundering hoof beats are my horses. The chattering machine guns are death to all of me: Yaqui Tarahumara Chamala Zapotec Mestizo Español. I have been the bloody revolution, The victor, The vanquished.
In the 80’s and ’90’s, I fell in love with poems and novels by Sandra Cisneros. My love affair with Ms. Cisneros’ work is well documented on my blog. For me, her poems in “Wicked, Wicked Ways” and “Loose Woman,” spanned the politics of women.
Ms. Cisneros is my ‘she-ro.’ My favorite poem is “You Bring Out the Mexican In Me.”
It’s also fairly long, so I’ll print one of her short poems:
If I could choose 10 days to give back to time, I’d choose the last ten.
Between my usual six month cancer checkup (to see if I’m still in remission or not), a relationship ending, and my brother in critical care and suffering from ICU Delirium, the stresses of my life cut through any desire to do much, including writing more than a few words.
What do you do when life rides so heavy on you that you don’t want to get out of bed?
I jotted down bits and pieces of words in my bedside journal. Sometimes it was a curse word, other days I don’t remember what I wrote until I looked back.
This is what my journal said one day:
I think we’re on the brink of change, like a jeep tottering over a cliff in an action movie. Will it fall or won’t it. Will we be saved or crash and burn? I pray and pray. I show up in life. I try to write, read, concentrate, but all I want to do is cry.
On that day I prayed continuously for my brother to progress. And then I rested and cried.
Another day my journal reminded me to take time out, be grateful, meditate, pray, take it easy. And I tried to do that.
I’m well acquainted with the valleys of life, but for the last few days it’s been particularly hard. Perhaps, it’s because I feel I’ve been hit on three sides; too many whammies at once.
It’s getting the gumption, the ganas as we say in Spanish, to move forward that eluded me.
But, I know things will get better, and I thank God I am still in remission and my brother is slowing progressing. It really is one hour at a time, then one day at a time, for a while.
Today, while returning home from the hospital, I opened my Bible scriptures app (yes, there’s an app for that):
Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…-Matthew 11:28
I smiled at that. And then I put in my earbuds and listened to meditation music on my cell phone, while my sister drove us home. Among the soothing music a gentle voice said:
Put away the ghosts of the past, the worry about the future, and stay in the here and now. Stay in the present moment. Surrender.
Again, I felt comforted. I am encouraged.
These small acts have made a big difference. In my heart, I feel the ganas returning.