Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guest Columnist: Jesse Tijerina

As a second year assistant principal, Jesse Tijerina spends his waking days and seemingly endless nights with children; 377 which attend Maplewood Middle School and 2 beautiful children of his own; his son Nicholas and daughter Sophia, both of them still in diapers. And through all of the changes from literature teacher to adminstrator, Jesse has been able to sustain his love for palabras fuertes, el amor of powerful words. Whether he is reading or doing a little writing of his own, it is a sure thing that you will find Tijerina with a book in hand.

Something Old

Published in 1975, “Chicano Poems: for the Barrio,” is the first of only a handful of books by Angela De Hoyos. While reading “Chicano Poems,” the voice and image of the late great Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado reverberated and appeared throughout my mind. The coraje, mañas, costumbres, y callejeras of her barrrios de San Anto mirrored Lalo’s El Paso and Lalo’s Denver.

In, “Who Killed Brown Love?” De Hoyos responds, “I did/ - dijo el hombre blanco -/ with my little knife/ cuchillito de palo/ slowly but surely/ magullando. My personal favorite is the simply titled, “Chicano:” “How to paint/ on this page/ the enigma/ that furrows/ your sensitive/ brown face/ - a sadness,” writes De Hoyos. “Porque te llamas/ Juan, y no John/ as the laws/ of assimilation/ dictate.

When reading De Hoyos you will find that her every poem is a barrio in itself, populated with rage, habits, customs, and troubled streets. Que Viva De Hoyos!

Chicano Poems: for the Barrio. By Angela De Hoyos. M&A Editions, 1975

Something New

Not that it matters, but my vote for Latino Lit’s freshest prospect is the young Boricua from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kevin A. Gonzalez’s, “The Night Tito Trindad KO’ed Ricardo Mayorga,” is a knockout of a first book. Cono, each poem hit me like Tito’s legendary left hook. No doubt the accolades for this young poeta are well deserved.

What Gonzalez does best is what I love the most about Latino writers, they write what they know by infusing culture. “…you wrote about the kioskos/ in Luquillo, Puerto Rico,” writes Gonzalez in his poem titled “Cultural Sellout.” The fritoleras’ hands scarred/ by the bursting pounce of oil, / coconuts like green bowling balls on ice.” And later in the verse, his beloved Neruda makes an appearance, “Gold wounds/ & reigns over the wounded, / & can you borrow that Neruda line/ & still call this your poem?”

Of all the reasons I believe Gonzalez is a champ in the making, it is the manner in which he vicariously exposes himself through his influences. With the awe and embarrassment of a child, he finds himself exchanging punches with Tito Trinidad, playing catch with Roberto Clemente, and having a café con leche with Neruda. Gonzalez Bumaye!

The Night Tito Trinidad KO’ed Ricardo Mayorga. By Kevin A Gonzalez. Momotombo Press, 2007.

Something Borrowed y tambien Blue

The following poem was written five years ago by a student in my creative writing class during his freshman year in high school. Anthony Dominguez is now married and a soldier in Iraq.

Only 4 years old

I was in 7th hour of my 8th grade year
I heard my name over the speaker
They said it was an emergency
My heart dropped as I ran through the hall
When I get to the car, they say it is your brother
He’s hurt
We don’t know much
But he’s at Arvada hospital now
As we rush to the hospital
I think sad thoughts
How I was mean and yelled at him
I sat there thinking
How was he
Was he hurt, sad, lonely?
How was he feeling?
I saw my mom and Chuy outside his room
The father from church and other family too
They didn’t want me to see him
But I pushed my way through
I saw little Adam
He was attached with tubes
And wires and things
My heart fell slowly
A part of me died
I lost all the love and the feelings inside
I didn’t think I’d ever see them again
I lost it
Outside the room
The cops asked me questions
I answered none
Father Fox said please stop son
They wanna help
But I left in a fury
Cops right behind
I run outside
While I’m burning inside
Feels like fire runs through my veins
The doctor says we’ll air lift him, we don’t have the medical attention he needs
When I get in the car
I feel the pain
As if I was there with him
But I don’t now if he’s hurt dead or alive
Why and how did this happen
I don’t understand
I pray to the lord please help
Take me instead
I asked why you let him
Why didn’t you protect him?
Then I run up to his room
I see my critical brother
He is lying in the bed
He is limp
Not moving
Hooked up to machines
I feel his heartbeat slow
The anger towards life begins to grow
Then I swallow my tongue
Try not to cry
I need emotion to get out
I just wanna die
I go to my family
They see I wanna cry
They try and try to comfort me
Then without notice
I leave in a fury
I can’t slow down
I wanna stop but I can’t
But I feel in control
With tears streaming down my face
I hit the wall
I smash the picture and frames
Glass on my fists
The pain starts to ease
When I see the blood flow
I know I’m in control
I see the puto Chuy
Who sits there alone
Guilt on his face
I ask him if he did it
He says no, “te lo curo”
I say, ok, I believe you
Then shake his hand
But in my heart
I don’t believe him
Then the doctor comes in
Cops right by his side
Tell Chuy you’re comin’ with us
Let’s go for a ride
My mother asks, why
The doctor says, Adam has trauma to
To the back of the head
Impact equivalent to a 4 story drop
They take Chuy away
All I feel is hurt
How he lied to me
My best friend
Hurting Adam
My blood
I see him, no movement
I tell him, I’m sorry
For not being there to help
I want him to be ok
My life has fell down
On top of my head
I pray and pray to Jesus
But he gives me no response
The doctor says he is brain dead
He has no chance at life
I close my eyes and see his soul float up to the light
Doctor says we have to pull the plug
Then we all begin to cry
They gather us in a little room
To get the damn thing done
As we wait for the doctor to come in
He breaks down, starts balling in the hall
He doesn’t’ want to do it
Then he is finally able to overcome
When he comes to the room
He pulls the tube from his throat
My hand on his chest
His heart beats fast
And then becomes very slow
As I feel the last beat
I kiss him goodbye
I feel he is free up in the sky
When I left the room
I left part of my heart
I am closed like a safe without a key
Nothing goes in, nothing goes out
My mom tells me funeral’s Monday
Time seems to stop
As for Chuy, he’s doing 38 years
Child abuse resulting in death
I don’t think he’ll get out
I think he’ll go mad
But I got no feelings for a killing man
Adam only 4 years old, barely started his life
His life died. I love him.
Why’d Chuy got to take his life?

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