Friday, March 31, 2006

From One Poet Laureate To Another

Manuel Ramos

When Abelardo Lalo Delgado passed away in 2004, Mayor John Hickenlooper announced that he was creating the post of Denver Poet Laureate and that Lalo was the first poet to be so honored, albeit posthumously. It was a nice gesture appreciated by Lalo's family, friends, and fans.

Lalo's successor as poet laureate, Chris Ransick, recently was treated to a public reception at the Denver Public Library where he was warmly greeted by his own fans as well as the family, friends and fans of Lalo.

The highlight of that evening was Ransick's reading of his tribute to Lalo, a poem he entitled Lalo's Notebooks. One of the people who heard that reading described it as "truly special. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room."

Chris has given me permission to reprint his poem on La Bloga, and so here it is.

Lalo’s Notebooks
Chris Ransick

all rights reserved

She handed me the blue canvas bag, said
These are from his family; it weighed as much
as a life lived, a big soul full of roses and the
other blooms, the unnamed ones,
laid on the graves of broken workers and
women who would feed their children more
if there were more to eat. How could I
open such a bag. I carried it down the street
and my hands ached, not with pain
but with love for the poet I’d never met
and the words that were really flames
of ancient fires, hot enough still to give light
in this dark time. I took those notebooks
home and when I opened them el gallo
crowed and woke the babies sleeping in
our future, the old men and women
resting from long labors, and the young man
in the photograph, standing atop a toolbox
amid defiant faces, bright sun & hard shadows,
pointing in outrage at the lie and naming it.
I found Lalo on every page, filled
by his own hands with fruits he pulled
from the stems of witnessing. And there were
bawdy poems, fingers dipped in love,
the grandfather’s caress, the wise fool
who sees what others can’t and dances
and wears bright feathers, his motley made
from the parrot and the jaguar’s pelt.

And Lalo said,

Launch your attack with love
and do battle as if
all about you was water
and your soul was on fire.

All morning I wandered in Lalo’s notebooks,
walked arm and arm with a brother poet,
whose voice was soft but impossible to ignore,
singing out over the path to Aztlan,
and we crossed through migrant camps
and were offered coffee and bread, a seat
by the campfire, and we crossed through a tenement
at Oregon and Fifth, El Paso, where children
burned and the people wailed, and we crossed
through the field where César Chávez stood
and raised his voice in truth, and raised us all.
I walked with Lalo and learned, I walked
and went to a place from which I will never
return. So I say here, in his words,

I call on
my brothers and sisters
to do battle in the name of love.


I'll be absent from La Bloga next week - look for a something special from one of the other bloguistas, or not.


1 comment:

Tabitha Dial said...

I was at the reception for Chris Ransick. This poem was amazing to hear and it is wonderful to revisit now. Thank you for posting it.