Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Would Teach Them to Walk on the Earth as Humans

I read this poem every morning at work. It reminds me why I do what I do. I guess I don't interpret it literally because it's definitely rooted in an experience (Chicano) that is not my own, but the spirit of it fits right into what I am striving for each day. Here it is, it's by Jimmy Santiago Baca who is probably my favorite poet.

Yellow school buses halt at small groups
of waiting mothers,
rebozos around their shoulders,
like their Indio ancestors,
huddled around a fire at night.
The kids scamper off
like young buffaloes nudging
their mothers' hands to play,
but then they finally dash off.

If I were a teacher
I would roam them along
the Rio Grande; teach them silence,
to listen to the air
brushing sunlight on leaves,
the soft stroking of wind quills
on leaves, sisst-sist-sist,
slowly drawing across the leaf, leaving
thin streaks of yellow, then turning them red and gold-

they would understand that
the poem is given away-
that golden leaves fall to earth,
to the black, warm steaming earth,
where the hands of roots
weave our gifts again into the whole picture
called life.

I would teach them to fight for solitude,
stand their ground like mountain rams-
do not let the city's nightlife
lure them away-demand, shivering
uncertainty in blood, demand solitude.

I would teach them to look-
face the tree and study the bark,
see how the grooves foretell
our lives, how rough-edged it is,
how it holds up the tree, encircling the soft, moist
bark inside. How the tree counts its years
in circles, completing its sorrow each autumn,
enduring its loss of innocence each winter,
turning to meet the circle it drew
with new leaves, offerings of leaves
quivering under the sun god.

I would teach them to walk on the earth
as humans: to regard the cities as they do
their log-cabin toys-shelved
after play hour, as they resume their lives
in the sunlight, under the moon, among the people.