Was it Yesterday or Today

Was it yesterday or today
that sane voices
were drowned out
by the musical stir
of bombs bursting in air
and rockets’ red glare
as children ran to and from
bullets
that whispered a prayer

Was it yesterday or today
that angry bullets
found their mark
in innocent flesh

We grieve
We mourn
We sit in sackcloth and ash
We wait for God to take sides,
and politicians to pray
while we wait
for angry bullets
to no longer fly

Was it yesterday or today
that the metallic sound of tat-tat-tat
echoed
in tender ears
as rapid-fire sounds alarm
and children hide
from fatal harm

Was it yesterday or today
that children weren’t safe
from bullets
that flew their way

Was it yesterday or today
When we mourned them
While they Laid in state.

Was it yesterday or today
that we Laid them to rest
in shrouded coffins
of extinguished
light

 

The Migrant Mothers Song

1946—
America the Great.
They traveled many miles to pick cotton in Arkansas

A harsh welcome from the farmer,
a chicken-coup for accommodations.

Sisters, Hermanas,
Niñas color bronce como sus abuelas,
raza noble.

Happiness glitters in brown eyes.
They laugh as young girls do.

Hot from the field,
quaint country market,
una soda para refrescar.

“We don’t serve your kind”
sounds the voice of white supremacy,
the lash
of Bible Belt Christianity.
A cruel reminder of when they are

In the words of Langston Hughes,
“The Dream Deferred”

The moment
imprinted on their innocence
like boot prints
in deep snow,
a cold impression—that will never heal.

A migrant child’s
on-again off-again education,
children plagued by segregation
whose singular purpose,
is to prepare them
for farm work
and hotel housekeepers
“The Dream Deferred”.

America the Great,
land of opportunity,
but not for them,
“The Dream Deferred”.

1953—
America the Great.
Brothers
home from the war,
Korea
their patriotic duty.
Proud men,
Americanos born of Mexicanos
proud to serve—
Signs display:
“No Mexicans or Dogs Allowed”
“The Dream Differed”

Shed blood!
Pick crops
but stay in your own Brown Lane—
was the prevailing wind
of America the Great,
the land of the free and home of the brave.
Free to labor in her fields,
brave enough to die in her wars,
but to the Gringo,
they are disposable, invisible people.
“The Dream Differed”

America the Great,
unless your skin is brown,
and you speak the language of your abuelos. 

For the sake of her children and grandchildren,
she fears to have
America, made Great
again.

The Elegy

Grandmother,
in the blister of the sun,
l was shaded by the branches of your presence.

Underneath your boughs
I sheltered from the rain. 
With your wisdom I kindled fires. 

In the twilight of your season 
I gazed upon your beauty.
you were like a mighty tree. 
Your hair was gray, but to me 
It shone with the hue of fall leaves in splendid color
reflecting the blossom of maturity. 

How often I saw your love
descend like falling leaves 

into gentle piles.
I laughed at children
as they leapt into your arms,
nestled in your keep. 

Then cruel time took you to task,
you shed no more leaves. 
Your branches now still.
We called the funeral home
and like skilled woodsmen
they laid you to your rest.  

We called upon a godly craftsman 
to weave words reflecting your splendor. 
You were the noblest of trees and bore the rarest grain,
shaped by stage and storm.  

He crafted your acclaim
lent brilliance to your grain
ever mindful of your aim
giving glory to your name. 

 

 

The Bar, At the End of The Street

When he drank, 
he drank deep,
at the bar at the end of the street.

The bar
was his church.
 

His visits,
as regular
as a Priest attending

Mass. 

At Mothers urging,
I enter Father’s sacred place
to seek him out
and collect
what remains
of his check. 

Inside the bar, 
the hymns from the jukebox
are hypnotic,
and from ashtray alters,
the sacrificial smoke of tobacco
ascends to heaven.

From the center of the sanctuary,
comes the clatter
of pool cues
and the clack of ivory thunder
as pool balls collide,
a reminder,
it’s not really a church
at all,
just a noisy bar. 

The bartender,
a high priest
who presides over his flock.
 

He provides 
the amber blood
of a different kind of savior, 
and collects the offering,
   the unaffordable tithe,
that once belonged
to children 
and the landlord. 

I interrupt Fathers worship,
rob him of his devotion,
plead for his indulgence 
and convey Mother’s supplication. 

With the reluctance of
an impenitent heart
he hands me 
what remains of his
check
and sends me away. 

Afterwards,
he ambles home. 

The next day,
he prays to another God.
Forgiveness, to quiet his guilt
of consequence.
Absolution

for the bruises
laid upon his wife,
and he craves a penance,
for his sin of disregard. 

Flat Eggs

In my kitchen,
surrounded by the familiar smells of
cominos, chiles y ajo,
I Make breakfast for my granddaughter,
a small, wide-eyed girl with long brown braids,
the handy work of her grandmother.
She awaits the two bright suns frying in the pan,
she calls them,
flat eggs.
She says,
no one makes them better.

I wonder if she’ll look back,
the same way I look back
and remember a small boy
in an adobe house
where the sound of a rooster
greets the morning,
and gentle rays of sunshine
make their way through the small earthen window
beside my bed
and gently caress my face.

Then
from under the wooden bed,
the scuffle of tiny hoofs
as a baby goat scurries out to find his mother.

I rise and venture into the courtyard,
noisy chickens scatter beneath my feet,
angry I’ve disturbed their breakfast.

Across the courtyard
is grandmother’s house
fashioned in the old way of mud and sticks.

In her kitchen,
surrounded  by the familiar smells of
cominos, chiles y ajo, stands a tall woman with long braids.
She makes me breakfast,
two golden suns in a frying pan,
my flat eggs.
I say,
no one made them better.