Thursday, March 11, 2010

remembering that chicanito

I was a librarian in Fort Lupton, Colorado the only time I met Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado. He had driven from Arvada to do a reading at our school as was a common offering of his in small farm towns across Colorado. Lalo arrived a half-hour early and I found him resting (alone) in the counselor's office, sitting with a genuine smile, the one often seen photographed on the rear covers of his many publications. And there I stood, a first year librarian in his twenties clinching a sagging bag of stapled chapbooks for Lalo to bless with an inscription. Lalo inscribed every volume and from a leather satchel he handed me a copy of his first book.

Published in 1969, Chicano: 25 pieces of a chicano mind is a member of an exclusive fraternity of movimiento classics that (not for the lack of voice, message, or beauty) somehow continue to remain prisoners of an era; its readers of today most likely mirror those of yesterday. Hopefully, this mini review will render a reader or two or three.

In the introduction, Delgado writes, "If my poems help the Chicanos to view themselves more clearly or for the Anglo or the Black man to also understand them, I have helped. If they don't, mine has been a sincere crime..." You will find that the only crime is not having read the poems assembled in Chicano.

En cultura, costumbre, y sentimiento viven estas poemas; each poem dances to the beat of a Chicano heart. It is in the simplicity of Delgado's words readers realize the harsh reality survived by the chicanito he writes of in by far the book's finest poem, Stupid America. Refraining from abridging the poem with synopsis or abstract, you will find its contents in full below.

Stupid America (a poem by Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado)

stupid america, see that chicano
with a big knife
on his steady hand
he doesn't want to knife you
he wants to sit on a bench
and carve christfigures
but you won't let him.
stupid america, hear that chicano
shouting curses on the street
he is a poet
without paper and pencil
and since he cannot write
he will explode.
stupid america, remember that chicanito
flunking math and english
he is a picasso
of your western states
but he will die
with one thousand masterpieces
hanging only from his mind.

While Delgado's work can almost never be found in chain bookstores, fans old and new are sure to liberate single volumes of his many published chapbooks from the leaning stacks of dusty used bookshops. Yes, his titles are rarities and cause para un pisto when found on those luck days as there is no denying Lalo's masterpieces endure and no longer hang only from his mind, they hang from ours as well.

1 comment:

msedano said...

thank you for this reminder of one of the genuine greats of Chicano literature. "25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind" is the first book of Chicano literature I ever owned, the edition with plain green cover. Menso me, I lent it enthusiastically to someone who wanted to "know more" about chicanarte. That person never returned it, menso him. I miss that collection.