A poem from Lorna Dee Cervantes (I found this while doing research for my play online-please enjoy!)


Poem For The Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person, Could Believe In
The War Between Races
by Lorna Dee
Reprinted from Emplumada, a collection of poetry by Lorna Dee Cervantes, printed by University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981. It was Lorna Dee’s first book and received a 1982 American Book award. Her poems include thoughts on growing up in Mexican-American communities in the San Jose/Santa Clara Valley area of Northern California. Two poems, “Freeway 280” and “Beneath the Shadow of a Freeway” document the loss/destruction of historica Chicano neighborhoods for the building of the 280 freeway.
Chicana/o literary critic Jose David Saldivar wrote about her work, “No book has so successfully made the California urban and rural worlds of unfinished  freeways and ‘spinached specked shoes’ of cannery workers come alive. No book has so carefully elucidated what living as a Chicana in the West means…. Emplumada offers a number of troubled and delicate portraits of a woman’s world and how that antipatriarchal world has come to have meaning
In my land there are no distinctions.
The barbed wire politics of oppression
have been torn down long ago. The only reminder
of past battles, lost or won, is a slight
rutting in the fertile fields.

In my land
people write poems about love,
full of nothing but contented childlike syllables.
Everyone reads Russian short stories and weeps.
There are no boundaries.
There is no hunger, no
complicated famine or greed.

I am not a revolutionary.
I don’t even like political poems.
Do you think I can believe in a war between races?
I can deny it. I can forget about it
when I’m safe,
living on my own continent of harmony
and home, but I am not

I believe in revolution
because everywhere the crosses are burning,
sharp-shooting goose-steppers round every corner,
there are snipers in the schools…
(I know you don’t believe this.
You think this is nothing
but faddish exaggeration. But they
are not shooting at you.)

I’m marked by the color of my skin.
The bullets are discrete and designed to kill slowly.
They are aiming at my children.
These are facts.
Let me show you my wounds: my stumbling mind, my
“excuse me” tongue, and this
nagging preoccupation
with the feeling of not being good enough.

These bullets bury deeper than logic.
Racism is not intellectual.
I can not reason these scars away.

Outside my door
there is a real enemy
who hates me.

I am a poet
who yearns to dance on rooftops,
to whisper delicate lines about joy
and the blessings of human understanding.
I try. I go to my land, my tower of words and
bolt the door, but the typewriter doesn’t fade out
the sounds of blasting and muffled outrage.
My own days bring me slaps on the face.
Every day I am deluged with reminders
that this is not
my land

and this is my land.

I do not believe in the war between races

but in this country
there is war.

p.s. Tomorrow I’ll be at my cousin Tami’s house- I’ll return sometime Sunday.

p.p.s. Papers, papers, papers- why did I procrastinate?  ARRRGH!


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