Did you know that National Hispanic Heritage Month began on September 15th and ends on October 15th? And why, you may ask, does this celebration of the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America start in the middle of one month and end in the middle of the next? (I certainly did). And here is why: This time period includes Independence day celebrations for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (September 15th), Mexico, (September 16), and Chile (September 18). Also, Columbus Day, aka Indigenous People’s Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 14, falls within this 30 day period. Whew, that is a lot to pack into one celebratory month.
So today’s Thoughtful Thursday honors National Hispanic Heritage Month with the works of young Hispanic poets from several regions. First, “Poem In Which I Only Use Vowels” is a list poem by Paola Capó-García. Capó-García is a poet and translator from San Juan, Puerto Rico, whose soon-to-be-published book of poetry, Clap for Me That’s Not Me (Rescue Press, 2019) won the 2017 Black Box Poetry Prize. Capó-García explains to poets.org why she wrote a list poem: “…I wanted to create a list of ideas for poems I would never actually end up writing—a list of scenarios that felt like familiar expectations of poems (e.g., flowers, prettiness, wisdom) and some that mapped out my own anxieties about poetry. I wanted a claustrophobic poem that also felt open and endless, where the speaker’s identity could shift and shift and shift.”
The next poem is “Let Me Try Again” from Javier Zamora. Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador, in 1990, and he migrated to the United States in 1999. He received a BA from the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA from New York University. He has received numerous poetry fellowships, including from Stanford and Harvard Universities. The final poem, “I Walk in Every Room And Yell Where The Mexicans At”, is by José Olivarez, a poet, educator and performer from Chicago, Illinois who now lives in New York City . He is the author of Citizen Illegal (Haymarket Books, 2018), winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize, and co-editor of the forthcoming BreakBeat Poets Vol 4: LatiNEXT.
All three of these poems are great to read aloud to your children, or have your children read them aloud to you. Share these poems in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and enjoy.
Poem In Which I Only Use Vowels
Poem in which I have wisdom.
Poem in which I have a father.
Poem in which I care.
Poem in which I am from another country.
Poem in which I Spanish.
Poem in which flowers are important.
Poem in which I make pretty gestures.
Poem in which I am a Deceptacon.
Poem in which I am a novelist.
Poem in which I use trash.
Poem in which I am a baby.
Poem in which I swaddle.
Poem in which I bathe.
Poem in which I am a box.
Poem in which its face is everything.
Poem in which faces are everywhere.
Poem in which I swear.
Poem in which I take an oath.
Poem in which I make a joke.
Poem in which I can’t move.
Let Me Try Again
I could bore you with the sunset, the way water tasted
after so many days without it,
the breed of dogs, but I can’t say
there were forty people
when we found the ranch with the thin white man,
and his shotgun.
Until this 5 a.m. I couldn’t remember
there were only five,
or seven people—
We’d separated by the paloverdes.
four people. Not forty.
The rest. . .
I don’t know.
They weren’t there
when the thin white man
let us drink from a hose
while pointing his shotgun.
In pocho Spanish he told us
si correr perros atacar.
If run dogs trained attack.
When La Migra arrived, an officer
who probably called himself Hispanic at best,
not Mejicano like we called him, said
and gave us pan dulce y chocolate.
Procedure says he should’ve taken us
back to the station,
checked our fingerprints,
He must’ve remembered his family
over the border,
or the border coming over them,
because he drove us to the border
and told us
next time, rest at least five days,
don’t trust anyone calling themselves coyotes,
bring more tortillas, sardines, Alhambra.
He knew we would try again
like everyone does.
I Walk in Every Room And Yell Where The Mexicans At