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Jimmy Santiago Baca

The Blackbird

The blackbird sits
On a bronchial limb
Ready to
Squeal his guts
Where?

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To My Own Self

My hands the Hook thunder hangs its hat on,
My breast the Arroyo storms fill with water,
My brow the Horizon sunrise fills,
My heart the Dawn weaving blue threads of day,
My soul the Song of all life...

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When Life

Is cut close, blades and bones,
And the stench of sewers is everywhere,
Blood-sloshed floors,
And guards count the dead
With the blink of an eyelid, then hurry home
To supper and love, what saves us
From going mad is to carry a vacant stare
And a quiet half-dead dream.

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Like an Animal

Behind the smooth texture
Of my eyes, way inside me,
A part of me has died:
I move my bloody fingernails
Across it, hard as a blackboard,
Run my fingers along it,
The chalk white scars
That say I AM SCARED,
Scared of what might become
Of me, the real me,
Behind these prison walls.

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Oppression

Is a question of strength,
of unshed tears,
of being trampled under,
and always, always,
remembering you are human.

Look deep to find the grains of hope and strength,
and sing, my brothers and sisters,

and sing. The sun will share
your birthdays with you behind bars,
the new spring grass

like fiery spears will count your years,
as you start into the next year;
endure my brothers, endure my sisters.

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Count-time

Everybody to sleep the guard symbolizes
on his late night tour of the tombs.
When he leaves, after counting still bodies
wrapped in white sheets, when he goes,

the bodies slowly move, in solitary ritual,
counting lost days, mounting memories,
numbering like sand grains
the winds drag over high mountains
to their lonely deaths; like elephants
they go bury themselves
under dreamlike waterfalls,
in the silence.

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Into Death Bravely

Winter
throws his great white shield
on the ground,
breaking thin arms of twisting branches,
and then howls
on the north side of the Black Mesa
a deep, throaty laughter.
Because of him
we have to sell our cattle
that rake snow for stubble.
Having lived his whole life
in a few weeks,
slow and pensive he walks away,
dragging his silver-stream shield
down branches
and over the ground,
he keeps walking slowly away
into death
bravely.

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Listening to Jazz Now

1.

Listening to jazz now, I'm happy
sun shining outside like it was my lifetime achievement award.
I'm happy,
with my friend and her dog up in Durango, her emailing
me this morning
no coon hound ailing yowls
vibrant I love yous.
I'm happy,
my smile a big Monarch butterfly
after having juiced up some carrots, garlic, seaweed,
I stroll the riverbank, lazy as a deep cello
in a basement bar--

smoke, cagney'd out patrons
caramel and chocolate women in black
shoulder strap satin dresses,
and red high heels.

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Meditations on the South Valley, Part XXIII

Pancho, the barrio idiot.
Rumor is that una bruja from Bernalillo
le embrujo. Unshaven, chattering
and nodding to airy friends
that follow him,
he roams the barrio all day.
I see him at least twice a day—
walking on the ditch behind my house,
hours later walking across the bridge.

Harmless, la gente leave him alone
in his own fantasies,
to share his bread with invisible companions,
to speak back to voices
that brim over from his childhood memories.

I have seen him
on all fours in Raul’s field
with the sheep. Or last Christmas
in the tree meowing like a cat.

[...] Read more

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This Day

I feel foolish,
like those silly robins jumping on the ditch boughs
when I run by them.
Those robins do not have the grand style of the red tailed hawk,
no design, no dream, just robins acting stupid.
They've never smoked cigarettes, drank whiskey, consumed drugs
as I have.
In their mindless
fluttering about
filled with nonsense,
they tell me how they
love the Great Spirit,
scold me not to be self-pitying,
to open my life
and make this day a bough on a tree
leaning over infinity, where eternity flows forward
and with day the river runs
carrying all that falls in it.
Be happy Jimmy, they chirp,
Jimmy, be silly, make this day a tree

[...] Read more

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