Monday, April 16, 2007

Hermanito

A poem by César A. González-T. in honor of his late brother, Gilbert John González (November 12, 1936 – April 4, 1957)

Little Brother, Gilbert, you were murdered.
April 4th always gets us off-guard,
though we know it’s coming
with that vast timeless silence
leaving us suspended in a void.

I dream of you, in your infancy always,
our childhood.
Mine that little brother’s clarity of vision.
Ah! I remember so well, that first instant
I saw you in your crib.
On the spot
I loved you.

On our way home
in our dad’s little jalopy
that old Ford Woddie ‘28,
I felt all grown up.
Someone, I remember, smiled at us
as we turned south off 12th Street, onto Maple.

Your arrival is a landmark
in my memories.
For a little while
we were two: Rosario Elena and I,
six years later we became three.

You were, el niño, the little one.
“Take care of el niño!”

So we grew up together
celebrating our cradle songs of innocence
sharing the tears that are bound to fall.
You’d run--
oh, you ran so.
I can still hear your tiny foot-falls,
see your small high-topped boots,
hear your little voice calling out my name
in that dusty backyard
of our childhood bungalow of memories
on East Twenty-Eighth Street.

One day
our mother let out
a horrified cry.

I looked up . . . .
You were leaning out
about to fall off the right side of the slide
our dad had built, down
from one of the arms of our apricot tree–
I opened mine
and fell in a tumble with you
all in an instant.
(Little brother–so dearly remembered–
where was I when you fell
dead, you such a man
braving your way
into the flames again and again
to help others,
looking for your best buddy, Joe,
engulfed in that horrible holocaust
of the fourth of April?)

Our father’s simple joy
going to the beach
almost every day of the festive week
of his modest vacation
to la Playa del Rey

Mom blamed the cold sea air,
bit you, she said,
gave you “el gatito” the kitty cat.
You’d wheeze with your asthma,
grasping for air
for your measure of days

In that long ago time,
all the way from New York,
your godparents
Aunt Mary and Uncle Johnny
sent you warm little wool suits,
a Teddy bear with golden ears–
you came to love it so.

On Sundays, we’d ride out
on the H and B trams,
all the way to Brooklyn Heights
to the White Memorial Hospital,
for your allergy shots,
so much a part of our growing up
together.

Soon, big sister got married.
You and I were left together.
I’d take care of you,
but all too soon, I still just a kid,
was gone too–
to the north, it would ever be farther north
to studies.

Four days after I left,
on August 18, 1947
our little niece
María Elena was born.

I wouldn’t come home for seven years
before I saw her.
I hardly ever saw you.
Your’s the wonder of being the uncle
yours the joy of seeing her grow.
I saw you in photos
your friends,
Joe,
your girlfriend,
your graduation.

Christmas of ‘56, blessed reunion,
I came from Mexico with young athletes.
You brought us the New Year’s toast,
then out you went into the night
to work in a restaurant
just like our dad.
You worked hard,
you struggled,
endured.

You were beginning to savor
the days of your youth,
when one night, just before midnight,
you fell,
innocent,
so criminally cut down.
It was hardly the noontime
of your glorious youth.
Our Lord called you,
and, obedient, you responded
and you left us,
you left us.

Gilberto, hermanito,
today we’re going
from San Diego to East LA,
to Calvary Cemetery
where the sun rises,
where you rest with our people,
there between your buddy Joe
and our mom and dad.
We’re going to that little bungalow,
to your family there
to remember those days
so filled with joy
those golden days of many flowers.

5 comments:

C Gonzalez-T said...

Gilbert was murdered April 4, 1957. On th 25th anniversary of his death, 4/4/82, this poem, along with the gift of tears, was given to me. On the 50th anniversary of Gilbert's death, 4/4/2007, I finished translating Hermanito as it appears on La Bloga. The original follows:


Hermanito,
Gilberto,
te asesinaron
el cuatro de abril
siempre sorprende,
aunque uno lo espere,
el tiempo suspenso
silencio
inmenso
vacio.

Siempre
te sueño en tu infancia
es nuestra niñez.
Con claridad
de hermanito
recuerdo
el momento
que te ví
en tu cuna.
Te quise mucho lueguito,
y llevándote a casa
en nuestra carcancha
Ford Woodie veintiocho
me sentí
muy grandote.
Dando la vuelta
en la doce y Maple
hubo quien nos sonrió.

Tu llegada
es un margen
en mis recuerdos
de dos que éramos,
Rosario Elena y yo,
y tres que fuimos.
Eras el niño.
Cuiden al niño.
Y crecimos,
celebrando
las canciones de cuna,
llorando las tristezas
que tienen que ser.

Corrías
corrías
con tus pasitos.
Veo tus zapatitos,
oigo tus gritos
en el patio de polvo
de aquella casita
en la calle veintiocho
de nuestro barrio
infantil.

Un día,
oí un grito despavorido
de nuestra madre.
Miré pa'rriba . . .
te desplomabas
de la resbaladera
del brazo del chavacano--
abrir mis brazos
caer contigo
fué todo un instante.
Hermantio
de mi corazón
de mis recuerdos
□donde estaba yo
cuando tu caiste
muy hombre
muerto,
auxiliando a otros
entre las llamas
buscando a Joe
tu mejor amigo,
en aquel terrible
holocausto
del cuatro de abril?

El gusto
de nuestro padre
era ir a la playa,
todos los días
aquellos dias festivos
de sus pobres vacaciones,
a la Playa del Rey.

Mamá dijo que
te picó la brisa
te dió el asma
te dio "el gatito"
y lucharías
por tu aliento
medido el tiempo
que era
por venir.

En aquel entonces,
desde Nueva York
nuestra tía María
y el tío Johnny,
tus padrinos,
te mandaron trajes
de buena lana
y un osito
de orejas doradas
tanto que lo quisiste!

Los domingos
nos paseabamos
en los tranvias
H y B
a Brooklyn Heights
al White Memorial
a las injecciones.
Y así crecimos.

Pronto
se casó Chayito.
Tú y yo nos quedamos
juntos.
Te cuidaba mucho,
y aunque demasiado chico
también yo me fuí al norte,
siempre más al norte
a estudiar.
Pero en cuatro días,
el 18 de agosto del '47
nuestra sobrinita
María Elena
llegó

Por muchos años no volví.
Ya casi no te vi.
Tuya fué la dicha del tío,
tuyo el gusto
de ver la niña crecer.
Yo te veía en retratos:
tus amigos
el Joe
tu Novia
tu Graduación

La navidad del '56,
bendita reunión,
vine de México
con alumnos atletas.
Trajiste el brindis
del año nuevo.
Saliste en la noche
a trabajar,
como nuestro padre,
a un restorán.

Luchaste
trabajaste
sufriste
saboreaste
un poco tu juventud.
Y momentos antes
de una medianoche
caiste
infamamente occiso,
inocente.
Ni era el mediodía
de tu hermosa juventud.
Te llamó el Señor
y tu
te fuiste
obediente
y nos dejaste
nos dejaste

Hermanito, Gilberto,
hoy voy de viaje
desde San Diego
al camposanto del Calvario
de Los Angeles,
alla en el este
donde nace el sol,
donde descansas
entre tu amigo
y nuestro padre.
Voy a aquella casa
a tu familia
a recordar aquellos días
llenos de dicha
aquellos días
con muchas flores




César A. González-T.
April 4, 1982
Twenty-Fifth Anniversay of Gilbert’s death.

Lisa Alvarado said...

How can one offer thanks for something so deeply felt, so tragic....

But I am both grateful and moved by your piece. Gone forever and always with us, our beloved dead live in us.


Lisa

pamslick said...

On this day of loss ... all those lives of promise at Virginia Tech ... I read this poem of grief and love, remembrance and longing. It is the golden moments ... the memories of happy hopeful times, of a brother's arms as safety nets ... that sustain us. Thank you, Cesar, for sharing this most personal and moving piece of your life.

Chris Siemens said...

I am honored and humbled to have had you as a teacher Mr. Gonzalez. May your influence live on in those whom you have touched.

As for this poem:

When we open our hearts to the light, painful as it may be,
darkness may not remain,
indeed it will flee.

Thank you for sharing the deepest of sorrows and the height of true love.

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