I grew up with the public library just walking distance from my home. I remember my first library card, and the man who gave it to me. I’d checked out the same two books on constant rotation – dilapidated copies of King Kong and Godzilla books. Memories come rushing back, flooding my mind with the scent of the card catalog, the crack in my voice when I asked for assistance, and the moments spent looking out the window to the small atrium – if you could call it an atrium – within the children’s department. Part of me wanted to live in a library – and, in some sense, I do – or at least work within one.
When the Edinburg Public Library closed its doors, the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library opened. The library was named after a boy I knew in high school who was killed in the Iraq conflict three years prior.
The switch between libraries happened in my final year of college – I went to one library in the winter of 2006 and the other in the spring of 2007. I remember the confusion from the change, and wondered if the library card I held would still be valid. (It was.)
My days of unemployment, working odd gigs and contractual jobs, were spent hanging out at the library during poetry readings, performing my works, and borrowing books. When Jeanna got pregnant with Shaun, I knew that my days of just getting by were over.
In November 2011, I attended a job fair hosted at the library. One of the booths was for the City of Edinburg, and one of the positions was for the library. Because he was present, I asked the assistant library director – whom I met during my stint as a local poet – about the position. Of course, the job required an MLS degree, however, he did let me in on some information. One of their children’s staff members was retiring and a position would soon be open. Adding, that I should keep up with the city’s website and talk with the library director.
I’m thinking of quitting my job. And that scares me.
It scares me, because I have nothing planned out for the aftermath. There isn’t a plan b. For the last decade, my world has revolved around the library. It has become my identity.
I was Guillermo, the library aide. Guillermo, the library assistant. Guillermo, the cataloger. Guillermo, the second in command of the children’s department. Guillermo, the interim children’s supervisor. Guillermo, the senior library assistant.
Guillermo, the library/cultural arts assistant II.
I end this celebration of National Poetry Month as I started it – with the words of Amanda Gorman. So for the thirtieth and final poem, I have chosen her climate change poem, “Earthrise.” Please enjoy.
I wrote and posted this poem some time ago. I wrote as a response to a comment made by a colleague on the subject of reading one’s works in public. It irked me that there are people who “teach” others how to perform their own poetry. How to read it in front of an audience. It’s one thing to teach someone how to edit their works, but how to read it?
So as the twenty-ninth poem, I have chosen my own – “How to Read a Poem.” Please enjoy.
When I asked people who their favorite poet is, I knew that Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare would make an appearance. And I was not disappointed. But from the two, I prefer Edgar Allan Poe. So for the twenty-eighth poem, I have chosen “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe as read by the late, great Vincent Price. Please enjoy.
Poetry is important to me. It is important that I shared it with others. People I love. People I don’t know. I shared it with library patrons, young and old. I shared it with people on the internet. It is why I can stand in front of an iPad each week and read to children. Without poetry, I would never had gotten my current job. I would never have met the friends and coconspirators that I keep. Without poetry, I would not have found my voice.
In early 2020, I had a plan. We were gearing up for a new year and mapping out our future programs. I knew that the library would hold its annual poetry month celebration with a reading, but I wanted to do something for the kids too. Then in March, everything just stopped.
In lieu of the reading and children’s programming, I decided to run a month-long “poetry break” on this blog. It is a tradition that I decided to continue this year. And one that I may continue next year.
Like several people, Covid kept me inside. I watched the news as tensions grew in public. The don’t-tread-on-me crowd began to cry about their civil rights, how it was hard to breathe underneath their masks. They threw tantrums in front of government buildings. Cried their right-wing crocodile tears. Spouted racism and plotted to kill government officials who wouldn’t budge on their stance.
A lot of people want to compare out country’s tragedies to each other. I am almost tempted to do so. After 9/11, we were spoon-fed a narrative. Suddenly, Americans were in agreement about something, no matter their ideology. We were considered truly united in our trying times. And this would be true, if you ignored the racism that followed. All of it swept under the rug for the 10 o’clock feel good fluff piece that played out. We hear didn’t hear how people of Middle Eastern descent and Muslims became the target. It would months after when we woke up from the united fog.
I’m sure the country wanted a repeat of that unitedness, no matter how delusional the idea is. Instead, we seemed more divided than ever. Under the Trump administration, science became public enemy number one. As did common human decency. The back-the-blue crowd became those who attacked them. They compared themselves to Jews during the Holocaust, slaves during slavery. And the great divider just churned it, stoking the fires until January 6, 2021 when it exploded.
We were supposed to be better. We were supposed to be united. And maybe someday we will, but maybe not in our lifetimes.
For the twenty-seventh poem, I have chosen “The Color of COVID” by Darius Simpson.