Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Most Incredible and Biggest Poem on Unity in the World


By Juan Felipe Herrera. Guest editor, Marisa Urrutia Gedney

When I heard the news about the horrific gun killing of twenty children and six educators at Sandy Hill School in Newtown, Connecticut, I was stilled into silence and sadness.  It was too much to bear.  And it still is.  I decided that I could call upon friends known and unknown through Facebook and also through Bettye Miller at UC Riverside who have been assisting me in promoting my California Laureate projects.  People responded.  Some asked if their poems were “too dark” or if they could send them to my UCR e-mail: 

Others invited their children to write.  Some wrote from the Newtown area and others from various states in the USA.  Many wrote from our California place.  We also received bilingual poems – how beautiful.  Already, I had begun “The Most Incredible and Biggest Poem on Unity in the World” a few months before my position was confirmed by Governor Brown in November, and now it seemed to have had a reason and most of all, a beating heart.  I hit Facebook the day of the massacre.  The poems are still rolling in and the plan is to send all the world to Governor Brown, the California Arts Council (who is in charge of the Laureate nominations) and of course, to the Newtown Bee, and as far as possible.

After I mentioned this Unity Project to my friend, Michael Sedano, writer and photographer and a founding editor of La Bloga, he kindly invited me to submit it.  He was the photographer for the first Floricanto Chicano National Literature Conference in November 1973, where I met many great Chicano Latino poets and where I debuted my nervous voice.  Amelia Montes of La Bloga took on the project to place and format this feature—gracias, Blogistas!

For guest editor, I called upon Marisa Urrutia-Gedney, one of my students, earlier this year, at the Las Brujas Writing Workshops (Ghost Ranch, NM) organized by Cristina Garcia, a magnifica writer and good friend.  Marisa admitted to the tough challenge of selecting ten pieces for La Bloga, and I commend her for kind editorial skills—the rest, in total, in response to the shootings and as a new sign of Unity, will be sent out as a family of poems. 

We have come together with vision, compassion, and creativity.  Thanks to you. 
Mil gracias.  Let these words from your hearts be the Flores y Cantos for the children of Newtown, their families, their community, and for all those who have suffered and are suffering this day.  For all of humanity. 

Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of California
Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of California
Born in farmworking Fowler, California and attended UCLA on an EOP Grant, then on to Stanford in a ’54  Ford Pick-Up.  Tell your friends, neighbors, community, everyone—write, speak, act – now is the time—for peace, Unity, for all.

GUEST EDITOR:  Marisa Urrutia Gedney is a writer and educator born in Los Angeles.  Her most recent work has appeared in Statement Magazine, Mujeres de Maiz, and the 2010 Intersection for the Arts anthology, Know the Names of Things.  Marisa is currently the Director of Operations and Programs in Echo Park for the 826LA where she helps students write and publish their stories and was recently named one of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 in Education.

UNITY of Poets for the Children and Families of Newtown, Connecticut—End the Violence
10 Poems:  December 15-December 21, 2012

When you hustled your baby onto the bus
that morning, it was Friday, the last day
to get through before the weekend together.
School would close for the holidays soon
and he would not have to tell you
how his day went.
The sound of Y,
writing from the top down,
staying in the lines
could wait.

Everything we insisted upon
was supposed to be good for you,
the way we make you into a person.
To keep you safe.
The scaffolding was still up.
We were all creating you to withstand the surrounding air.
One day you would understand.

Today I asked my own daughter,
in frustration, why she must do everything
I tell her not to
one more time?
As if my words should still her.
As if my incompetent knots will keep her
from flying off.

She knows it.
She flutters in the available space.
Treading the air until she can follow
her own direction.

If we are all sand,
it doesn't blow away
but elsewhere, everywhere
all over us, it seems,
our hands, our eyes
our nights.

However you return to me, return
to me.
A kiss for your damp lashes,
your forehead pressed against my lips
after you crawl into my bed early
Saturday morning,
your little arms around my neck.

-Nicole Stefanko-Fuentes

Green Ribbon Wrapped Around my Finger

Thank you sweet angels for giving me Christmas back.
Please forgive me, these last few years I seem to have lost sight of
what it really meant.
Follow me closely, for all this time it seems that I have forgotten how
to move forward.

Thank you dear angels for sending down a gift wrapped blessing,
These 26 acts of kindness seem to spark the holiday season,
I think there is a flicker back in my flame.
“Oh, this little light of mine…”

Remember there was a time,
Where we as children could believe in miracles,
If we could dream it we surely became it,
Even if it were only for in that moment.

Remember there came a time,
That we adults thought anything was possible,

If we saw sight of it or even heard lite of it,
Within our years we slowly believed in it.

Maybe if we continued to believe in miracles like we once had,
Maybe if we followed every single one of the dreams that we all have,
Then maybe, just maybe we can become angels, like the 26 that heaven now has.

-Melissa Carvalho (Danbury, CT)

20 Someones

Remember those 20 Angels
Who left for school that day
And for their little innocence
The tragic price did they pay.

20 little snowflakes
Fell to a red-covered ground
Waiting for a bell to ring
They fell without a sound.

20 burning flames
Shown with a hopeful light
Were extinguished that day
And fell to a dark night.

20 small cubs
Were lost in a storm
That blew without mercy
And left many in mourn.

Those 20 innocent Angels
Now fly above our heads
Playing in the clouds
And watch over us in our beds.

Those 20 little snowflakes
Now blow in the breeze
Bringing love and happiness
To whomever they please.

Those 20 burning flames
Now shine even brighter
Lighting the way for others
They make the world seem lighter.

Those 20 small cubs
Now play without worry
Helping others through that storm

They clear vision, making it seem less blurry.

Jocelynn Cortes
10th grade
Age 15

Mother of the world

Don't ask me to grieve
for these children only
ask me to grieve for them all.

Ask me to grieve for the 16 million*
who go to bed hungry
every night -
ask me to grieve for them all.

Ask me to grieve for the 1.6 million*
who go to sleep without a home
every night -
ask me to grieve for them all.

Ask me to grieve for the six million*
around the world who die from hunger
every year
or the 176 killed by US drones in Pakistan* -
ask me to grieve for them all.

You don't have to ask me to mourn
for these innocents
for I mourn all the children of this world
and I am ashamed
and I am grieving.

-Sarah Page

your music

rain of tears
drizzle of darkness
splash of sunshine

i like it when you hang around
turn the moon around
a true treat

you are my love of sight
take a way out
peace is on the way

chocolate drizzles
flowers with raindrops
mist covered cotton

jingle bells
all is calm
glass clinks on the ground

glittering stars
the moonlight shines from above
the grass opens like doors

for the newtown jewels

by kiana lin aiko del rosario (age 8)

Coriolis Effect

In memory of the children whose lives were lost through
war and violence.

But listen to the voice of the wind and the ceaseless message that
forms itself out of silence. It is murmuring toward you now from those
who died young. - Rainer Maria Rilke

All morning I watch the sparrows and blue jays,
some singing, some with crumbs in their beaks.
They fly from branch to branch, tree to tree;
they don’t seem to notice me.
Two hummingbirds fly in a pair,
their green and red glistening breasts
a contrast to the grey weather.
The wind is cold, it is drizzling.
I watch the yellow leaves on the ground
and the half-naked trees.
Below the orange tree, an orange
is cracked open from the fall,
snow white and forest green
with mold, its juices and rind
slowly return to the earth.

The first time I was aware of my breath
was when I practiced deep breathing.
I was about twelve years old
and my Tai Chi master taught me
how to breathe deeply.

Breathe in - count to six -
the stomach expands.
Breathe out - count to twelve -
the stomach goes in,
slowly release the breath
through my mouth and relax.

Breathe the world in
and breathe myself out.


-Teresa Mei Chuc

Last night I walked with my nine year old
sister, down Daisy Ave. Both wearing

scarves and beanies to shield us from the cold.
I thought about what I saw on the news

as I made myself oatmeal this morning,
stirring it swiftly, as the numbers mounted.

I dropped a cup of hot coffee on my lap,
as the reporter announced that children

were among the victims. Twenty-seven humans
that lost their life in Connecticut. I wasn’t

thinking about the hot coffee that I had spilled,
or steam billowing up on my lap.

I wasn’t thinking about the eighty dollars
I made this week to pay my credit card.

I was thinking about how I got to walk
in the cold with my sister. Of living

past five o’clock, and realizing that I was lucky
to be alive. That in three months I’d turn a year

older. My sister walking next to me said:
that the six and seven year olds that died

today will never know what it is to be twenty-four.

They won’t know what it is to be nine,
won’t know what it is to live another December.

She kicks pine cones as she says this, I look
over to her, monarch butterflies flutter past a tree—

they live.

-Melisa Garcia

look around you---
the litter in the stairwell---5 janitors have been laid off
(that graffiti in the parking structure---they were laid off)
likewise the light fixtures out in the corridors and various broken things---
plus the overcrowding: faculty have been reduced, staff laid off
---the buses too no longer run as frequently (bus drivers laid off)---
imagine being told to find a job to feed your family in this economy---
people were told to find their own transportation, if not---too bad---
crowds mill on the street corners sometimes waiting---
one kid i know was attacked by a gang of (he said) a dozen 12 to15 year olds
they sucker-punched him and when he turned to push them off
one pulled him down by grabbing away his backpack (it was a robbery)
and he struck his head against the curb and suffered a concussion---
these circumstances are generated by policies carried out by administrative
bureaucracies and boards, handed down piecemeal by supervisors and
bureaucrats who often hate to be the bearers of bad news, but they bear
any news they are given; a girl who worked for me was leaning back
napping, resting her head against the wall, when i joked, “wake up,
don’t be so lazy,” and she ran from the room weeping---
she was exhausted, working full time to support her unemployed parents---
her dad dying from congestive heart failure, did die in a month---
(when we parted, she gave me a box of chocolates and a hug
to show she had no hard feelings, only the kindest feelings of a sweet kid)
---those sending the memos and making the policies have already xeroxed
their condolences to everyone who suffers these actions and these
famous policies of budget cuts and downsizing, everyone who falls
under the fallout can count on a form letter of some kind with official sympathies---
(maybe not 168 children killed in drone strikes in pakistan---the others in yemen,
sudan, afghanistan, etc., maybe not them, they get no official notification,
no trial, just bombs)---look around you, that burnt out carcass of a car---
on a cracked and broken sidewalk, homeless people wearing blankets
leaning against the hospital fence---a cold cup of coffee under the weird cold blue
moonshine from the street lamp---
(look at that blue light up there, maybe it is you)

-Sesshu Foster

I want

to keep
as they


each in


like gym




set of


it made

-Valerie Wallace

What is it that these suburban white boys represent, what archetypal energy, what unspoken shadows, what needs to be healed America, what needs to be healed.....? In the scream of the Sandy Hook grief I hear the cries of the drone-bombed children, their voices drowned out by calculated media spin design, and yet, it is the children who lead the, unlike any other time in history, we are going through this together, it's no longer just us going through this together as Americans but as a human family, and we are forced to look at how we are treating all our children, and take a good hard look
at that and make a change, for the better, united as one family for all things are one and all things are 
related, a-ho, mitakuye oyasin!

- Everardo Pedraza

1 comment:

msedano said...

Juan Felipe Herrera and Marisa Urrutia Gedney, thank you for a beautifully expressed memorial. I'm looking forward to the full roster and seeing the biggest Unity poem in the Universe.