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V - Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca (Jimmy Santiago Baca)

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Years pass. Cattle cars in the downtown freightyard squeal and groan, and sizzling grills steam the Barelas Coffee House cafe windows, as the railroad workers with tin hard hats stop for coffee, hours of dawn softly click on grandfather's gold pocket watches in Louey's Broadway Pawnshop, hocked to get a cousin or brother out of jail City workers' tin carts and long-handled dust pans clatter in curb gutters as buses spew smoldering exhaust as they stop beneath Walgreen's neon liquor sign. I lean against an office building brick wall, nothing to do, no where to go, comb my hair in the blue tinted office windows, see my reflection in the glinting chromed cars, on a corner, beneath a smoking red traffic light, I live- blue beanie cap snug over my ears down to my brow, in wide bottomed jean pants trimmed with red braid, I start my daily walk, to the Old Town Post Office, condemned Armijo school building, Rio Grande playa, ditches and underpasses- de-tribalized Apache entangled in the rusty barbwire of a society I do not understand, Mejicano blood in me spattering like runoff water from a roof canale, glistening over the lives who lived before me, like rain over mounds of broken pottery, each day backfills with brown dirt of my dreams. I lived in the streets, slept at friends' houses, spooned pozole and wiped up the last frijoles with tortilla from my plate. Each day my hands hurt for something to have, and a voice in me yearned to sing, and my body wanted to shed the gray skin of streets, like a snake that grew wings- I wished I had had a chance to be a little boy, and wished a girl had loved me, and wished I had a family-but these were silver inlaid pieces of another man's life, whose destiny fountained over stones and ivy of the courtyard in a fairytale. Each night I could hear the silver whittling blade of La Llorona, carving a small child on the muddy river bottom, like a little angel carved into ancient church doors. On Fridays, Jesus Christ appeared on La Vega road, mounted on a white charger, his black robe flapping in the moonlight as he thrashed through bosque brush. Sometimes Wallei, the voice of water, sang to me, and Mectallá, who lives in the fire, flew in the air, and Cuzal, the Reader of Rocks, spoke with a voice jagged as my street-fighting knuckles. A voice in me soft as linen unfolded on midnight air, to wipe my loneliness away-the voice blew open like a white handkerchief in the night embroidered with red roses, waving and waving from a dark window at some lover who never returned. I became a friend of the old women who hung out by the bars on Central,Isleta,and Barcelona, blue tear drops tattooed on their cheeks, initials of ex-lovers on their hands, women drawn out from the dark piss-stinking rooms they lived in, by the powerful force of the moon, whose yellow teeth tore the alfalfa out of their hearts, and left them stubbled, parched grounds old goats of tecatos and winos nibbled. All my life the constant sound of someone's bootheels trail behind me-thin, hard, sharp sounds scraping frozen ground, like a shovel digging a grave, It's my guardian, following me through the broken branches of the bosque, to the door of the Good Shepherd Home on south 2nd street, for a hot meal. Jimmy Santiago Baca

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