Friday, October 04, 2019

The Border and Migrant Children on My Mind: New Song and Poems

Melinda Palacio

Somewhere in the Sonoran Desert

While I continue to revise my next novel, I am also writing poems and studying music. At first, my guitar practice was intermittent and relegated to when I remembered a song I wanted to learn. Two years ago, I became serious about learning how to play. That's when Steve bought me the beautiful guitar in the photo. I take it everywhere and practice whenever I get a chance, whether we are on the road or at home. I've given a handful of presentations along with my poetry readings, including earlier this year at Pueblo Community Community College, where I sang the Bird Forgiveness theme song, a song I wrote to accompany my latest poetry book, Bird Forgiveness. I never thought my interest in learning guitar would be accompanied by singing and writing songs. Learning music is a never ending rabbit hole because everything is connected and there is so much to learn. Steve used to urge me to write songs because I am a poet and he saw a natural fit. I was skeptical, thought the idea a joke, and laughed it off. Now that I've written several songs, I'm glad I have added another creative outlet to my repertoire.

Many of my recent poems have been about the situation at the border. I keep thinking about the children separated from their families, abused, and jailed. At this moment, I'll hold off on sharing the poems, but will have a follow up post once they are published. However, I can share the song that I wrote. An example of this rabbit hole is how learning the guitar led to learning how to read music and write it. My working title for my new song is All at the Border or When La Llorona Meets the Devil. I don't think I have to spell out who the devil is in this story.

For me songs are stories. La Bloga's own Michael Sedano calls songs Poems with Wings, a fitting description. This song about the border is my newest song. I wanted to wait to share it, but with the latest indignations which included shooting migrants in the legs and moats with alligators, along with current immigration atrocities, I couldn't wait to dress up the song with a more polished production. Let's just say this is a work in progress and very much a first draft. Last month, I sprained my broken ankle and was disabled for several weeks. The good news about being forced to slow down is that the experience produced new writing and a new song. My friend Lora suggested I write a new song during my convalescence, so this one is dedicated to her. I'm glad I didn't spend the entire time bent out of shape because I couldn't walk. I challenged myself with this latest song. I threw in some difficult bar chords. This isn't an easy song to sing either. The production is a video selfie with me singing and playing into the recorder on my iPad. I have yet to fall into the Garage Band black hole or into the art of movie or video making. If there's interest I will post polished versions of this and other songs.

For more information on why Immigration is such an important topic and why we need to celebrate creative contributions in moments of crisis, read about Reyna Grande's literary metamorphosis in her essay, Immigration and Transformation in World Literature Today. Although I am very familiar with Reyna Grande's work and her story, reading her essay inspired me to share this song. Grande says that as a writer she has learned to see writing the way James Baldwin saw it: as a tool to change the way people see the world. "As an artist, I've learned to hear the call to action, to be deeply aware of when our society is in distress, of when human rights are at risk. I've learned that artists do as Toni Morrison once said: 'We speak. We write. We do language and help our civilization heal'." Reyna Grande's words reminded me that the poems and songs pouring out of me lately are a response to our community's collective trauma.

Here's my latest song: All at the Border.

If video is not playing, view on my Youtube channel.

1 comment:

EverHopeful said...

Melinda, it is marvelous to see you bring your poetry and compassion on such important issues into the world of song! Please keep up the outstanding work.