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The Daily Poetry Movement

Happy New Year Activists and Union Members! Today I have picked a special poem for you called As Life Was Five, written by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Mr Baca, just finished helping to compile a book of the United Steel Workers poetry called Steel Works. I chose this peice in honor of Miami. It is truly inspiring to me, to see the the steel workers reaching out to us in solidarity. It is my hope that we will honor this great alliance with unions and radicals, artist with artist, poet to poet! May we forge this union in the fire and temper it with steel. Rise UP!
As Life Was Five

Portate bien,
behave yourself you always said to me.
I behaved myself
when others were warm in winter
and I stood out in the cold.
I behaved myself when others had full plates
and I stared at them hungrily,
never speaking out of turn,
existing in a shell of good white behavior
with my heart a wet-feathered
bird growing but never able to crack out of the shell.
Behaving like a good boy,
my behavior shattered
by outsiders who came
to my village one day
insulting my grandpa because he couldn't speak
English
English-
the invader's sword
the oppressor's language-
that hurled me into profound despair
that day Grandpa and I walked into the farm office
for a loan and this man didn't give my grandpa
an application because he was stupid, he said,
because he was ignorant and inferior,
and that moment
cut me in two torturous pieces
screaming my grandpa was a lovely man
that this government farm office clerk was a rude beast-
and I saw my grandpa's eyes go dark
with wound-hurts, regret, remorse
that his grandchild would witness
him humiliated
and the apricot tree in his soul
was buried
was cut down
using English language as an ax,
and he hung from that dead tree
like a noosed-up Mexican
racist vigilante strung up ten years earlier
for no other reason than that he was different,
than that they didn't understand
his sacred soul, his loving heart,
his prayers and his songs,
Your words, Portate bien,
resonate in me,
and I obey in my integrity, my kindness, my courage,
as I am born again in the suffering of my people,
in our freedom, our beauty, our dual-faced,
dual-cultured, two-songed soul
and two-hearted
ancient culture,
me porto bien, Grandpa,
your memory
leafing my heart
like sweetly fragrant sage.

But the scene of my grandpa in that room,
what came out of his soul
and what soared from his veins,
tidal-waving in my heart,
helped make me into a poet
singing a song that endures and feeds
to make my fledgling heart
an eagle,
that makes my heavy fingers
strum a lover's heart and
create happiness in her sadness,
that makes the very ground in the prairie
soil to plant and feed the vision of so many of us
who just want to dance and love and fly
that makes us loyal to our hearts
and true to our souls!

It's the scene
that has never left me-
through all the sadness
the terrors
the sweet momentary joys
that have blossomed in me,
broken me, shattered my innocence
I've
never forgotten the room that day,
the way the light hazily filtered in the windows,
the strong dignified presence of my grandfather
in his sheepskin coat and field work boots,
that scene,
the way the boards creaked under his work boots,
haunted me
when my children were born at home
and my hands brought them into this world,
that scene was in my hands,
it echoed in my dreams, drummed in my blood,
cried in my silent heart,
was with me through hours of my life,
that man behind the counter,
his important government papers rattling in the breeze,
disdainful look on his face,
that scene, the door, the child I was,
my grandpa's hand on the doorknob, his eyes on me like a voice
in the wind
forgiving and hurtful and loving,
to this moment-
his eyes following me
where I swirl in a maddened dance
to free it from my bones,
like a broken-winged sparrow yearning for spring
fields,
let the scene go, having healed it in my soul,
having nurtured it in my heart, I sing its flight, out, go,
fly sweet bird!

But the scene that dusty day
with the drought-baked clay in my pants cuffs,
the sheep starving for feed
and my grandfather's hopes up
that the farm-aid man
would help us as he had other farmers-

that scene framed in my mind, ten years old
and having prayed at mass that morning,
begging God not to let our sheep die,
to perform a miracle for us
with a little help from the farm-aid man,
I knew entering that door,
seeing gringos come out smiling with signed
papers to buy feed,
that we too were going to survive the
drought;

the scene with its wooden floor,
my shoes scraping sand grains that had blown in,
the hot sun warming my face,
and me standing in a room later
by myself,
after the farm-aid man turned us down
and I know our sheep were going to die,
knew Grandfather's heart was going to die,
that moment
opened a wound in my heart
and in the wound the scene replays itself
a hundred times,
the grief, the hurt, the confusion
that day changed my life forever,
made me a man, made me understand
that because Grandfather couldn't speak
English,
his heart died that day,
and when I turned and walked out the door
onto Main Street again,
squinting my eyes at the whirling dust,
the world was never the same
because it was the first time
I had ever witnessed racism,
how it killed people's dreams, and during all of it
my grandfather said, Portate bien, mijo,
behave yourself, my son, Portate bien.

By Jimmy Santiago Baca

 http://www.jimmysantiagobaca.com/aslifewasfive.html

 http://www.angelfire.com/mn2/anarchistpoetry/newsdir/kaiser.html

 http://www.hollowear.com/words/newmexico.html
I meant say: 01.Jan.2004 15:51

Migratory Bird

We have forged this union in the fire now let us temper it with steel! We are mighty together in solidarity, radical and United Steel Workers alike, rise up good people!

Real poetry movement 02.Jan.2004 16:42

Bugs bunny


Derisiveness doesn't prove superiority 02.Jan.2004 17:42

Migratory Bird

I have checked out your "real poetry" site and I don't think it is the type of poetry I am interested in posting on the daily poetry movement. However I have always said, that any member of the community is welcome to host the daily poetry movement on any given day, just post under the name and use your chosen acronym. The purpose of the daily poetry movement is to bring activist art back into our lives, and weed the Hollywood drivel out. I prefer to search for the roots of our movement and use contemporary artists who reflect this work. For instance the Edna St Vincent Millay and Chrystos talking about passion and lesbianism.
Your quick derisive comments cut me and I do not appreciate them. I spend on average 2-3 hrs researching this article daily. I try to discuss a variety of topics using a variety of voices. If you chose to host the daily poetry movement I hope you will take the time and effort I have and adhere to the ideas I have outlined.
Otherwise I would appreciate it if you would not put down the artists I have chosen for the day in order to push a website you like. If you do not like my suggestions please publish your own article.