MY FATHER WAS A BRACERO
I know this:
my father was a Bracero
I hold his contract
yellow paper full
his pay stub
not enough to survive
I wonder what he had to endure
I wonder if the DDT sprayed
on his face over the years
contributed to his ailments—
diabetes, asthma, cerebral embolism—
that blinded him.
Laying railroad tracks
expanding commerce routes
from Texas, Alabama
My father’s dried sweat merged
with that soil
under a burning sun
another nail on the ties
He went back to Mexico-Tenochtitlan
started a restaurant
so he could send me
to a private American school
He wanted me to learn
to live way north
across the border line
He didn’t want me to live
by my strong back, my strong arms
but by my words
My tongue retains the roaring sound of rivers, of the earth after the rain
falling over leaves, branches and flowers.
My tongue is stained with the juice of sweet pitayas, red, delicious, grown
under Tonatiuh’s rays, our father sun.
My tongue reveres nature and all living beings, mountains, rivers, oceans, night and day.
My tongue wears Quetzal feathers mystical birds from the Mayan paradise.
My tongue is impregnated with Calpulli, Tonalli, Xochitl, Xochipilli,
Mictlantecuhtli, Cuauthemoc, Moctezuma, Quetzalcoatl, Tomatl, Centeotl.
My tongue speaks of temples, demigods, copal, flowers, medicinal plants,
jade masks, golden pectorals, obsidian stones, volcanoes and blood.
My ancient tongue speaks Zapotec, Nahuatl, Purepecha, Tzotzil, Otomi,
Chamula, Mayan, Tarahumara.
My tongue is my identity—the connection to my people, my roots, my culture.
My language is from the earth, from the heavens, from my soul.
My tongue speaks, my soul feels the breath of the earth,
the sound of the wind Ehecatl.
My tongue, my language,
My culture and pride.
From Coatlicue to Sor Juana Inéz
women from all ethnicities have walked
this earth with their tireless feet
giving birth, giving life.
Rigoberta Menchú Guatemala City
La Soldadera, Las Adelitas guerrilleras
Frida Kahlo pintora, Cisneros escritora
Lila Downs cantora con su voz
Sing songs to all rich, poor, happy or not
desperate lament of love—
Pen at hand Castellanos writes poems
black ink bleeding on paper white
indelible as doves.
Women are sustainers, protectors
peace makers and warriors
beacons of humanity
Women are powerful!
Women have the wisdom of the creator
they bear life.
Without women man cannot survive
women are the yin of life
their nurturing and motherly love
make men out of children
women know what we-man don’t.
Women have a golden aura
women have charming power
women change things
Women give life
women give love
women are curanderas, healers
women are shamans
like María Sabina mushroom priestess.
Women can bring down the sun and the stars
if they want to—
women are the beauty of the world.
DAFFODILS AND DANDELIONS
In a sea of green, tall green grass,
yellow buoys stand.
Some high, some low.
Not all the daffodils grow in groups,
unlike the dandelions.
Perhaps their roots are different.
The dandelions unlike the daffodils
Have medicinal benefits.
The daffodils are gorgeous,
always ready to kiss the sun.
But the dandelion provides more than kisses,
It can heal from within,
yellow medicine from the ground up.
(In traditional Chinese and Native American medicine, dandelion root has long been used to treat stomach and liver conditions. Herbalists today believe that it can aid in the treatment of many ailments, including acne, eczema, high cholesterol, heartburn, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, and even cancer).
Raúl’s conversation with Douglas Cole
What inspired you to start writing poetry?
The events that took place on October 2nd, 1968 in Mexico City* left a deep impression in my mind. At that time I heard protest songs interpreted by Mexican and Latin American artists such as Jose De Molina, Daniel Viglietti, Violeta Parra, Victor Jara among others. My first poem is dated October 2nd 1972. In 1995 I joined a group of Latino writers in Seattle. It was then, when I became serious about writing poetry.
Which poets have influenced you? And what did you learn about the process and the forms of poetry from the poets you love?
My main influence is Octavio Paz followed by Neruda, Jaime Sabines, Xavier Villaurrutia, Carolyne Forche, Lucille Clifton, Jack Kerouac and many more.
Octavio Paz – Simplicity of the abstract
Neruda – Images that stand alone
Sabines – Love as necessity
Villaurrtia – Death
Forche – Truth and humanity
Clifton – The straight truth
Kerouac – Kaleidoscope of themes, moods, places
The forms are many. I use what gives legs and voice to the poem.
What would you say is the poet’s place in the world today?
Poets are the witnesses of life. We write what we hear, feel, see, smell and touch. Although not all poets have the same experiences, some may write only about nature or fictitious situations. And then there are poems that can bring peace or incite revolutions. We can do both.
RAÚL SÁNCHEZ is the former City of Redmond Poet Laureate 2019 – 2021. He teaches poetry in Spanish through the Seattle Arts and Lectures (WITS) program, also through the Jack Straw Educational Project. In the last three years he volunteered for PONGO Teen Writing at the Juvenile Detention Center. He runs the «Poetry in the Park» event at the Meadowbrook Pond in NE Seattle. His work has appeared in a multitude of journals, magazines, and anthologies such as IN XOCHITL, IN CUICATL or Floricanto – “Flower and Song” 100 years of chicanx/latinx poetry, published by Editorial Polibea, Madrid, Spain. His new collection «When There Were No Borders» was released by Flower Song Press, McAllen Texas July 2021.
Blue Citadel is a column by Douglas Cole (Washington, USA). Novelist, poet, professor and translator.